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Gamer's Kryptonite 72

1up has a feature, in honor of the excellent Superman Returns, discussing the unfortunate history of Superman licensed games across the many consoles. The worst is, of course, Superman 64. From the article: "Superman 64 isn't completely without redeeming features. It serves as an invaluable object lesson in how not to make a videogame. Try to build your characters with more than three polygons. Do not pad out your game by forcing players to fly through rings at two miles an hour in between each stage. Do not make your superheroes less physically imposing than a one-legged, asthmatic kitten with a concussion."
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Gamer's Kryptonite

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  • Blizzard?! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Monday July 03, 2006 @03:26PM (#15651790) Journal
    So I was watching through these videos and I caught the Blizzard Entertainment logo [1up.com] at the beginning of The Death and Return of Superman [everything2.com] (1994) for the Genesis.

    Is anyone else as astonished as I am? I thought Blizzard only made high quality computer games. Perhaps they have a few skeletons in their closet?

    Also, whoever wrote this article seems to suffer from Tourettes Syndrome:
    "Hey, a power up. OW DAMN HELL,"
    • Re:Blizzard?! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by smbarbour ( 893880 )
      I'm not surprised, but I already knew that Blizzard got their start as a B-grade console game developer.

      They got lucky with Warcraft. It gave them enough credibility to become a top-notch developer.
    • Re:Blizzard?! (Score:4, Informative)

      by merreborn ( 853723 ) on Monday July 03, 2006 @03:58PM (#15652064) Journal
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blizzard_Entertainmen t#Titles [wikipedia.org]

      Blizzard released a half-dozen console games before they stuck gold with Warcraft.

      There are flash-based playable demos of a couple of 'em here:

      http://www.blizzard.com/blizzclassic/ [blizzard.com]

      Nothing really special.
    • Blackthorne [wikipedia.org] was an excellent game, almost as fun as Magic Pockets by Bitmap Brothers. Here's a little snip from wikipedia on my favorite part:

      One of the game's characteristic elements quoted to this day is Blackthorne's ability to fire in the opposite direction without turning around. This subtle element added a lot of attitude and edge to the character. It was highly unnecessary to do, but people did it nonetheless. It also featured an innovative device called the levitator, which looked like a 'pizza sli

      • One of the first games I can recall that had idle animations, he'd polish his sunglasses and load his shotgun IIRC.

        This is the second-best genesis game ever. (First is Forgotten Worlds, one of the best 16-bit arcade conversions ever, if you can overlook the two deleted levels.

        The shotgun would be loaded only if you had fired shells, and it would be loaded only until the number of shells fired had been equalled. Very slick touch.

        You can read my writeup on Blackthorne [everything2.com] on Everything2.

    • Death and Return of Superman is actually a pretty good game. The article claims it's "Final Fight with a Superman paint job," but forgets that Final Fight was a pretty good game.

      Yeah, it's annoying that Superman gets hurt when hit by "punk with a mohawk" but that's my only complaint.

      • I agree, Death & Return of Superman was quite good, but I'm a fan of the beat'em-up genre in general. As far as those kinds of games went on the SNES, it was certainly one of the best. Far better than the TMNT games for sure. I think the whole Superman 64 debacle just poisoned the well so badly that anything it touches appears worse than it might have been without that hideous specter looming over everything.
  • Movie Games (Score:4, Insightful)

    by spykemail ( 983593 ) on Monday July 03, 2006 @03:26PM (#15651799) Homepage
    Someone once said "As long as people are willing to accept crap, it will financially profitable to dispense it." This holds true for everything, especially Game Developers.
  • Superman 64 truly was a horrible game...Worst of part about it was I wasted 2 bucks renting it from Blockbuster.
    • This problem goes way, way back. I bought a Superman game for I forget what, it was by Sun Soft, I think. In any event, you would get your energy worn down by these beams everywhere.

      Ya hoo. I felt like Superman. I mean, you have to have a way to hurt him, right? Well, when you spend a ton of money to get the rights, you have to produce a game, rather than let people who can think up good ideas do it. Hence it sucks. They search for a game to call Superman rather than let someone come up with somethin
      • Re:Wow.... (Score:2, Interesting)

        by joshsisk ( 161347 )

        He could try to save things "in the nick of time" for many or most of the puzzles, rather than haul out stupidity like Kryptonite beams everywhere.

        This is actually a good solution. You could make flying levels where superman has to get to the disaster or whatever it is, and has a timer... you have to fly him through the city without hurting anyone or crashing through any buildings. When you get to the disaster, it could almost be like a puzzle... say it's a volcano, you have to figure out whether to seal

        • Another thing that would be interesting, though challenging from a designers perspective, would be to create interfaces for his super-senses in game. So, instead of a simplistic "find the threat" button, you could toggle x-ray vision on, or super hearing... and have to actually learn how to use the senses effectively. That could be cool, if done right...
    • I looked at a few screenshots of Superman 64... uh, shouldn't the developers be prosecuted for crimes againts humanity or something? I'm sure it's a crime to produce shit like that.
  • Do not make your superheroes less physically imposing than a one-legged, asthmatic kitten with a concussion.

    Are you sure? I think that a game based around the idea of beating up crippled, hadicapped, physically challenged, diseases ridden animals would be fun. Who's with me?
  • Um..."excellent"? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Monday July 03, 2006 @03:33PM (#15651868)
    "1up has a feature, in honor of the excellent Superman Returns, discussing the unfortunate history of Superman licensed games across the many consoles."

    Sorry - not going to get interested in a fellow who wears red underwear outside his pants. Why have Superroo's games sucked as much if not more than his movies/comic books/etc.? Dunno - why have almost all character licensed games sucked? (Hint: after they blow the wad on licensing, there isn't much money for code or design left over)

  • The problem (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The problem with Superman games isn't with the developers. I mean, he's Superman. How do you make the game a challenge without giving everyone Kryptonite rings? He's got strength, laser eyes, freezing breath, and speed.

    Game plot:
    Superman hears there's a criminal planning to do something. Instead of taking out all of the henchmen along the way, he flies quickly past them to the boss and knocks him unconscious with one punch, then taking the villian to jail.

    Roll Credits.

    That's what Superman is like.
    • Yeah, that's the problem I have with the most common criticisms of Superman games. It's like the critics expect Superman to be Superman regardless of the fact that that would make the game very boring.

      I did come up with a possible solution to the problem, though; make a Superman game using the Dynasty Warriors engine, or something similar. That way you can have Superman beating up a bunch of hoodlums with no trouble to placate the "Superman is invincible" crowd, then make the bosses powerful in some way t
    • Re:The problem (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Bombula ( 670389 ) on Monday July 03, 2006 @04:39PM (#15652283)
      The new Superman Returns video game has an interesting take on addressing this problem (dunno if it'll work): Metropolis has a health rating, not superman, and gameplay is based on making choices about how best for superman to use his powers to help the most people. I think the example the developers gave was that there is simultaneously a burning building with people who have to be rescued and some giant robot tearing up downtown. What do you do? The answer in the game is that you pick up a fire engine and zip it over to the burning building and let them deal with a problem they can handle while you go off and sort out the giant robot.

      We'll have to see whether or not it works, but at least it's more in line with th superman character. Superman could easily be boring as a character for storytelling purposes if all he did was fight one bad guy after another. But when he is forced to choose, well, that is what makes things interesting. The thing that makes superman beloved isn't that he's strong or fast or bulletproof, it's that he can choose among options that will make a difference. In real life, we rarely have any choice at all because we are pretty much powerless most of the time. Superman isn't helpless like most people are (for all intents and purposes) in real life, and so he has the power to make choices. The harder those choices are, the more interesting it is to follow along.

      the same is basically true in any story for any hero. The difference is that in most classic stories the hero isn't super strong or super fast, but is just a normal person - an unlikely character - who rises to the challenge after the power to make a difference through their choices and actions is thrust upon them (think Indiana Jones).

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I think the example the developers gave was that there is simultaneously a burning building with people who have to be rescued and some giant robot tearing up downtown. What do you do? The answer in the game is that you pick up a fire engine and zip it over to the burning building and let them deal with a problem they can handle while you go off and sort out the giant robot.

        Man, Supes is dumb. The right way to deal with this is to reprogram the giant robot to fight fires.

      • Mod me -1 redundant, but this is exactly what I was thinking after watching the movie and "getting" Superman again.

        The trick is to be able to come away from it and still believe that Superman kicks more ass than God, and at the same time, you shouldn't ever feel like you're actually playing on Godmode.

        This, by the way, is something that I think is pulled off pretty successfully in the Halo games. Master Chief kicks more ass than God, makes wiping the floor with the Covenant army look easy, but no one can

    • Re:The problem (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tambo ( 310170 )
      How do you make the game a challenge without giving everyone Kryptonite rings?

      :shrug: That's the problem with modern games... if you have a man with infinite strength, developers can only imagine games that involve him using it to fight evil.

      How about not focusing on the obvious? If feats of strength become uninteresting, then how about basing a game on other challenges - stuff that relies on other skills, or tests even the mettle of a Superman?

      For instance:

      • Forcing Superman to choose between several
      • That's ten minutes of brainstorming by one guy. I wonder what all of the talented folks at Blizzard could imagineer together?

        The problem is that the electronic gaming industry has been in a race to the bottom when it comes to game complexity. In an effort to appeal to the widest demographic possible they come up with games that are no more complicated than remembering "green means go"*. This unfortunately means any game that requires thinking is almost certainly out of the question**. Superman better spend

      • ...Having Superman fight crime indirectly by serving as the leader of a community task force...

        Calvin: I've noticed that comic book superheroes usually fight evil maniacs with grandiose plans to destroy the world. Why don't superheroes go after more subtle, realistic bad guys?

        Hobbes: Yeah, the superhero could attend council meetings and write letters to the editor, and stuff.

        Calvin: Hmmm... I think I see the problem.

        Hobbes: "Quick! To the Bat-Fax!"

        ~ Calvin & Hobbes, Homicidal Psycho Jun
        • Hobbes: "Quick! To the Bat-Fax!"

          Heh - kudos on the choice reference.

          But I disagree with you. Consider this: How sexy did "resource management" sound before it was well-implemented in Dune 2, Warcraft, and Command & Conquer? Tech trees and odds ratios used to be the exclusive domain of those scary, pinheaded, turn-based-wargamer types.

          So, I understand. When you approach this idea, you're thinking "neighborhood block watch," which ranks just above "after-school special" on the gamer-ometer.

          Howeve

    • I.e., give Supes a series of missions he has to complete. He's effectively invincible but he needs to stop the bank robbers/terrorists/etc. in a minimum amount of time, with no human collateral damage and a minimum of property damage. The longer he dallies or the more of Metropolis he tears up while saving the world, the lower his publicity rating becomes. This will require strategic thinking and searching for non-obvious solutions (perhaps with the aid of X-ray vision). Boss battles could be super-powered
      • He's effectively invincible but he needs to stop the bank robbers/terrorists/etc. in a minimum amount of time, with no human collateral damage and a minimum of property damage. The longer he dallies or the more of Metropolis he tears up while saving the world, the lower his publicity rating becomes. This will require strategic thinking and searching for non-obvious solutions (perhaps with the aid of X-ray vision). I played that sort of game around 20 years ago on my Atari. http://www.atariage.com/software_ [atariage.com]
  • Spyro (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hackwrench ( 573697 )
    What make's Spyro's courses better than Superman 64's. I haven't played the latter. Also, Pilotwings 64 has a similar gameplay.
    • 1) Spyro's flight levels were considered 'bonuses' and you didn't have to give a shit about them until you wanted the OMFG SUPER SECRET LEVEL at the very end, and by then you didn't really care. If you didn't care about the secret level in the first place, you still had a great game in running around nailing gnorcs and shooting cannons.

      2) Spyro's flight levels actually involved a decent level of strategy (shoot this, charge that, fly through these) and coordination to get the job done. Don't tell me Sunny F
  • I played that game quite a bit when I was younger. Once I figured out how things worked, it was a fun (though heavily flawed) adventure game.

    Rob
  • There were a great deal of Atari Games that you could pop in several times a week as a kid, wander around for an hour, and never get the slightest bit closer to any form or semblence of progress or completion. ET, Starmaster, Swordquests Earthworld and Fireworld... I could write pages describing them, but you have to wonder exactly what the people who wrote these things were thinking.
  • by Ant P. ( 974313 ) on Monday July 03, 2006 @03:48PM (#15651975) Homepage
    I always thought that was sunlight.
  • by spyrochaete ( 707033 ) on Monday July 03, 2006 @03:53PM (#15652018) Homepage Journal
    Superman is one of the most hated superheroes because he has too many powers and is invulnerable to everything but space rocks from a jillion miles away. He's an overpowered flying side of beef with no natural predators. There's tons of room to write stories about such a character, but designing a challenging but sensible premise for a video game is really tough with Superman.
    • Well, he's also vulnerable to Magic, so a Superman vs. Mr. Myxlyplx game could be possible...

      maybe a licensed version of Scrabble.
    • In a way, Superman's popularity is his own demise, because he is THE clichè superhero. He has a secret identity, he has all the amazing powers you could think of, he has the girl (but not the marriage), and essentially lives akin to a god on earth.

      Which of course makes him a game's Deux Ex Machina. You can't start him out as a weak little thing from the beginning, unless you start WAY at the beginning and try to make some sort of RPG starting with Clark in school (perhaps with a Smallville nod), forcin
    • Batman is the Grep Ninja, master of the one-liner Bash script and fitting useful programs into a 1k handcoded assembly-language program. Batman is the clever security vulnerability that figures out the pattern in your random number generator and starts reading your AES-encrypted streams, delicately avoiding your RSA handshake.

      Superman is the brute force on a fucking quantum supercomputer.

      I like Batman for the depth of the character. I like the tormented, morally-ambiguous superheroes, the Daredevils, the
      • Batman is cool because he's a normal guy with cool toys. He's more like Cain and Abel than a bash script because he has the tools for any job. Batman is a way easier subject of a video game premise.
        • I actually feel the exact opposite. Batman's humanity ruins him as a superhero for me. It makes him silly, it makes the premise of Batman silly. A superhero with superpowers almost makes sense. A superhero without superpowers, who still wears such goofy and impractical costumes and refuses to use guns just comes off as deluded (the Punisher is the only human "superhero" who makes any sense). In real life, Batman would be dead in about 5 seconds. Hell, that's assuming he would even be able to FIND crime in t
        • he has the tools for any job.
          So he's like Perl?
    • I just thought of an interesting angle for a Superman game that neatly sidesteps all the invulnerability and superpower issues. You hang the challenge on preserving his secret identity and the Clark Kent / Superman split.

      Oh noes! The damsel is in distress and I'm stuck in Clark Kent mode surrouned by witnesses! Can I save the damsel with my heatvison without anyone noticing? Can I slip away to a safe spot to change into Superman without making too many people too suspicious? Can I wait a minute for a better
  • I was on a Nintendo magazine when Superman 64 was coming up for release. I had so much pity for the poor PR guy desperately trying to play it up as a good game that we should devote lots of coverage to when even he knew it was a pile of shit.

    The funny thing was, it wasn't the worst N64 game ever released, by a long way. Carmageddon 64, anyone?
  • For a long time (especially in the 80s and early 90s), games based on a movie were a dead sure bet for a crappy, half-baked excuse for a game. When you look at the parameters, it makes sense:

    - Expensive rights for the title (i.e. less budget for the actual game)
    - Incredibly tight schedules (getting the game out 2 years after the movie is pointless)
    - People buy it anyway because they know the name (and probably liked the movie)

    Furthermore, movie studios didn't care about the game quality. The market was not
  • I thought the article was going to be about that which incapacitates gamers whenever they are in close proximity: women.

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