Command & Cactuar: A Review of Multiwinia – Survival of the Flattest for the PC

November 16, 2008 at 23:36 (Reviews, Video Games) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Three like-minded undergrads meet at Imperial College London and hit it off.  In their love of retro games, Chris Delay, Mark Morris and Thomas Arundel share a passion that proves decisive when they band together to form Introversion Software.  Almost single-handedly, Chris cooks up a little hacker sim by the name of Uplink, while his collegiate compatriots get down to the business of selling their fledgling company’s quirky debut.  They appoint themselves “the last of the bedroom programmers” and invest in some CD-Rs and ink for their printers; they make and distribute the first copies of the game by hand.  They’re a dedicated, down-to-earth bunch of dreamers, and as such, it’s a pleasant surprise to say that they didn’t fall victim to that essentially British condition Top Gear so aptly ascribes as “ambitious, but rubbish”.  Within hours of its launch, Uplink had made back the developer’s paltry initial investment – and then some.  Enough, say, for Introversion Software to take to E3 2002 and drop £10k on showy speedboats and supercars.

The path Introversion Software took from those no-doubt hazy days to the more sobering state of the industry today hasn’t always been straightforward, taking in the bankruptcy of their then-publisher to the near-insolvency they faced themselves, not to mention a series of heartbreaking delays.  Their sophomore effort finally arrived in 2005, but despite critical acclaim and strong overnight sales, few gamers were willing to drop full retail price on an indie darling from a largely unknown quantity.  So few, in fact, that Introversion Software had to sign on for government benefits to sustain themselves through the six miserable months after their failure at retail.  But then: lo, Gabe Newell said, let there be Steam.  And there was Steam.  And it was good.  Valve’s groundbreaking distribution network made a modest success of Darwinia; it was the perfect platform for such a loving throwback to find its feet, and that it did, thanks in no small part to the modding community that blossomed around Introversion Software’s geometric RTS.

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Mistakes and Regrets at Electronic Three

July 19, 2008 at 13:57 (Books, Horror, Hype, News, Rants, Reviews, Video Games) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

My apologies, dear uncertainites, for the downtime these past few days.  Excuses include: I’m nowhere near E3, but I’ve been covering the convention from afar on the Ace Gamez blog.  And I totally called itAnimal Crossing on the Wii; lots of Little Big Planet; downloadable Ratchet and Clank episodes; and more besides.  But the point isn’t to boast – I have no particular insight, yet the only real surprise of the electronic three was Final Fantasy XIII on the Xbox 360.  And that, in itself, makes perfect sense.  Squeenix have a history of platform loyalties that aren’t loyalties at all, but canny decisions.  This is just the next decision.

For all that could have been, then, a toast.

If there’s a conference next year – and sadly, it really is a case of if and not when – I think I might make the trip.  I’d get press credentials, but I’d need a laptop, airfare, commitment.  In the twilight years of E3, I’m certainly not alone in wondering: is it still worth it?

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