Shenmue at King of Servers

Is Shenmue III out yet?

You know the drill. “Can I help?” popup on a website, so they get asked Shenmue questions. Usually they just disconnect. Did King of Servers?


Not right away, no. But still disappointing to just chuck me off. Boo!

Gin, Rummy

They’d cheated the game by watering down their own rum and using a cow in a buffalo suit.

Famous Crap Games Throughout History

Everyone who is of a certain age and social class will have heard of, and probably played, Gin Rummy. That two player card game where each person has to create sets of cards – runs and matching values, rather like Mahjongg for children. This is not Gin, Rummy.

To play Gin, Rummy (the comma is important) each player had a number of shot glasses and several bottles of both gin and rum. Any number of people can play, although local laws may dictate that players are over the age of 18, 21, or not from alcohol barring religious orders.

The game is quite simple: in Round One, each player downs enough rum to kill a buffalo. Any survivors move onto Round Two. In Round Two, all remaining players simultaneously down one shot of gin at a time. The last person alive wins, and can help themselves to the contents of the losers’ pockets/handbags/pants as appropriate.

You would think there is perhaps nothing crap about this game at all, but there is a sad side to all the fun. Since 1960 more than 7 million people have died from liver related diseases, every single one of which has been irrefutably linked to playing Gin, Rummy. Even worse, two men were arrested in 2006 having between them stolen more than £3.50 in change from the pockets of their friends. They’d cheated the game by watering down their own rum and using a cow in a buffalo suit as their reference measure.

Gin, Rummy is now illegal in 27 US states and is outlawed in Ghana and Denmark. In 2013 Essex County Council attempted to ban the game in the county’s pubs, against fierce opposition from members of the local heavy drinking industry. They unwisely chose to ban or not based on the outcome of, you guessed it, a game of Gin, Rummy. Three councillors died, a buffalo was arrested, and two publicans woke up in Zeebrugge with very dry mouths.

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

Incontinental Circus

The S key is right next to the IT key on Japanese keyboards.

Famous Crap Games Throughout History

It is well known that in the late 1980s the Japanese game company Taito made a slight error with one of their titles, releasing an F1 racer called “Continental Circus” after a poor translation of “Continental Circuit”. It was an easy mistake to make, I mean, the S key is right next to the IT key on Japanese keyboards.

What is less well known is a far more interesting story and it started two years before Continental Circus, with Incontinental Circuit.

Taito (back then, known as Potaito) had developed what they thought was bound to be the next big thing in gaming – two player head-to-head motor racing with bladder control. Literally. A pair of huge arcade cabinets, each housing a large screen, a reclining chair, a steering wheel, foot pedals, and a number of straps and sensors that needed to be attached to the player. A drinking fountain was angled towards the player’s mouth, and after inserting a few 100 Yen coins, the game began.

Much like in most other motor racing games, the aim was to win the race, but the twist with Incontinental Circuit was that your car’s engine power increased as you, the player, physically filled their bladder. The more you drank, the higher your vehicle’s top speed. Don’t drink, and your car loses power. The first to pass the Chequered Flag was the winner, the first to pass urine was disqualified. That’s right – moisture sensors in the seat would alert the game to your embarrassing release.

Unfortunately for Potaito, they were hit from all sides with issues. The main one that hit the headlines was over gamers sitting in a pool of other peoples’ fluids as arcade staff failed to mop up after disqualifications, and all the associated health risks that came with it. This was the 1980s, remember, and popular myth at the time was how easy it was to contract AIDS from arcade machines. Other problems just made things worse. The water fountains needed to be connected to a water supply, which was something most arcades struggled to accommodate. All that water (and “previously drunk” water) in close proximity to electricity caused several shocking deaths, and one unfortunate individual managed to drown when his water fountain malfunctioned and he couldn’t get out of the seat straps quickly enough.

What really killed the game off, however, was the cheating. Players soon found that by wearing adult nappies, they could thwart the sensors and wet themselves all they liked without the game noticing.

Finally, and perhaps most damning of all, was when the game was produced, the translator at Potaito managed to name the game as Incontinental Circus, rather than Incontinental Circuit, confusing gamers everywhere.

With the game an expensive flop (all those proprietary and unusual components almost bankrupted Potaito before the cabinets even hit the arcades), Potaito gutted the core game and repurposed it as a more standard F1 racing game. No water, drinking or sensors. They called it Continental Circuit, but somehow the same translator made the same mistake again. He never found translating work after that, and the entire fiasco was blamed on him and him alone.

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

Happy Ed Balls Day 2016

Ed Balls

To celebrate, I made this:

Things That Google Thinks Are Other Things

In the past, I’ve shown you some of the miscategorisation that Google’s software does with photos, detecting they’re cars and stuff when they’re not. It’s time for some more.

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.