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Can you beat GDC Jim 2016? Nope!

Jim McGinley, Blogger

February 28, 2017

5 Min Read

GDC 2017. There's 26,000+ of you vs. 1 of me.
Bring it.


You are of course making the annual pilgramage to the Museum Mechanique.
If you've never been, this picture explains everything:

Strange ManYou took the cable car and hung, right?

Museum OverviewThis picture explains nothing.

Last year, thanks to my middling yet strangely intact arcade skills, I set several high scores. Nothing for the record books, but enough for you. In the likely event my legacy has been destroyed, I offer the following proof.

Moon Patrol 63680Moon Patrol (1982) - 63,680 - Completed all checkpoints and looped back to F on 1 Quarter - I'm not a hero.

Moon Patrol (1982) Score: 63,680. One of the first games to feature "a quarter to continue". Since my allowance was 2 dollars a week, I knew that was for suckers i.e. If you continued at a higher/harder level, you'd play for less time than restarting from the beginning - who would DO that? What I'm trying to say is that allowance has alienated me from several generations of game design.

Moon Patrol featured crisp parallax graphics, wheels that moved independently of the chassis, and felt 60fps in a world where raster games were typically sluggish. What still sets Moon Patrol apart is the fact you had NO air control when you jumped. The length of your jump was determined solely by the speed of the buggy at the time of launch. Once you jumped, you KNEW exactly where you'd land. More importantly, the game designers knew. As a result, they meticulously laid out patterns of obstacles (not random) to take advantage of your jumping constraint. Combined with the left/right only slotted joystick, the pacing of game felt very deliberate.

i.e. Looking ahead, do you see 2 rocks with a small gap between them? Slow down then jump, then jump again. Wait... are those 2 rocks close together? Speed up and jump once. Wait... are there 3 rocks? Speed up, shoot the first one then jump once. The aliens are irrelevant, and try to distract you from the fact you're actually playing Dance Dance Revolution.

Pole Position 43270Pole Position (1982) - 43,270 - Those other 2 Jims are... uh... someone else.

Pole Position (1982) Score: 43,270. MUST be played with a steering wheel and stick shift (so get ye to the Museum). Every car (including yours) is a grenade that will explode at the slightest touch. Want to make your modern racing game more exciting? Make every car a grenade that will explode at the slightest touch. Perhaps the first "open world" racing game - Pole Position finally let you drive on grass.

Every game of Pole Position features a sharp turn where you must spin the steering wheel with abandon AND LET GO OF IT (otherwise you'll never turn fast enough). While praying you don't hit any grenades, you shift (extremely tactile) from high to low so you can turn even sharper. If you don't die, you grab the spinning wheel (instantly stopping it), shift back to high, and then... wait. Want to make your modern racing game more exciting...

Star Wars 933632Star Wars (1983) - 933,632 - My best game of Star Wars in 33 years... 5th.

Star Wars (the 1983 arcade game) Score: 933,632. Debatedly more revolutionary than the movie. A never-seen-again yoke controller, vibrant 3D vector graphics (Mame and YouTube can't do justice), and a perfect marriage of mechanics and license. Play this before it breaks, because no-one wants to do this.

The yoke controller allowed the player to quickly & precisely target enemies - something thumbs can only dream of. If I had 3 hands, I would use this as my mouse. Despite requiring 2 hands, it only provided the functionality of one thumbstick (albeit supercharged). As a result, the controller was used to both target AND steer. This should have sucked BUT the designers kept the player mostly on rails, rarely encountering situations where movement and targeting were at odds. i.e. Tie fighters always flew in front of you i.e. The trench contained your movement

When you play this at the Museum, start on Hard (Wave 5). The enemies will fire a wall of sparkling, slow moving bullets toward you. Shoot them easily away while marvelling at the controller that makes this possible. If the rebels were armed with mice, the resistance would be dead.

But wait... there's more! The realisation that "Use the force, Luke" meant "Don't shoot during the trench run for 10,000 extra points". Seamlessly flying from space onto the surface of the distant death star, an effect not seen again until No Man's Sky. Digitised voices, a midi John Williams score, Darth Vader's tie fighter geometry... this game is wasted on you.

Latte ExpressBonus Level - Latte Express - the best donuts in San Francisco. Cheap! Near Moscone. You're welcome.

Secret Ending - The view from my GDC 2016 hotel room. It knew.

Think you're better than me?
Visit this week and post scores in the comments (honour system)



Added Saturday March 4.
GDC 2017 ended yesterday.

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