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Tags: half-life
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    Many of you have been wondering what happened to all of the outtakes we include in our Super Replay episodes. Maybe you were worried that we had forgotten about or even purposely neglected to include them. Quite the opposite! We've amassed them for you here, in this special bonus episode of the Half-Life Super Replay.

    Tune in to the video below for outtakes, a "Greatest Hits" montage, and perhaps a peek behind the Super Replay curtain to see what we have in store for the next installment.

    Not caught up on all of the episodes of the Half-Life Super Replay? You can find them all here.

    Want to see Super Replays of other games? Check out our hub page.

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    Since Lou Albano first donned Mario’s blue overalls in the Super Mario Bros. Super Show, gamers have had a fascination seeing their favorite digital worlds realized in live action. With the launch of the webisode series Halo: Forward Unto Dawn, we’ve collected several first episodes from other internet series.

    Halo: Forward Unto Dawn

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    The first episode of this series focuses on a squad of young space marines undergoing training exercises.

    Alan Wake: Bright Falls

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    These bizarre episodes introduce prospective Alan Wake fans to the bizarre, Twin Peaks-esque town of Bright Falls.

    Assassin’s Creed – Lineage

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    Set before Assassin's Creed II, this web series follows Ezio's ancestor, Giovanni Auditore.

    Mortal Kombat Legacy

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    Forget the campy antics of the Mortal Kombat film, this first episode focuses on gritty firefights and action.

    Dragon Age: Redemption

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    Felicia stars in an elf at this live-action tie-in to the fantasy universe of Dragon Age.

    Portal: No Escape

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    This glimpse into a flesh-and-blood Chell's tinkering with a portal gun is a short film and not a series, but we'd like it to be.

    Coming in 2013

    These are a couple live-action webisodes confirmed to be coming next year:

    Hawken

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    Street Fighter: Legacy

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    What do you think of live-action series based on your favorite games? Have you watched any in full? Can you suggest any that didn't make our list?


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    Many games give you tons of weapons or endow you with more abilities than Inspector Gadget. But there are a few potent abilities and items that stand out from the pack. From shape-shifting vampire powers to the common bottle, these are ten items and abilities that permanently change the way you play the game.

    10. Bike – Pokémon  

    The Pokémon universe is filled with little critters that could be easily trampled underfoot, so we understand why trainers want to tread carefully. The pace of your average Pokétrainer, however, is infuriating. Slogging through the fields between towns in the Pokémon series takes forever – until you get your bike. Finally earning your bicycle enables you to blast down hills while listening to a catchy jingle. Who cares if you run over a couple pocket monsters on the way? You just did a sweet jump!

    9. Space Jump – Metroid series

    Samus is like a Swiss Army Knife. She can morph into a tiny ball, blast open doors, and freeze enemies in their tracks. Flying without her spaceship isn’t in her bag of tricks, however. Thankfully, her space jump move allows her to do the next best thing and rocket untold distances into the sky. This move opens up new worlds and power-ups to her. The space jump is one of the definitive moves in Samus’s arsenal that makes exploring with her even more empowering.

    8. Magnum – Resident Evil Series

    Guns are more than just flashy boomsticks in the classic Resident Evil games – they’re the currency you trade for life. Each bullet can be used to temporarily extend your fragile existence. No ammo type matches the sheer stopping power and value of the magnum. Finding these rounds, and the corresponding gun, offers players a sense of security not easily found in the cruel world of survival horror. The magnum quickly dispatches standard foes and brings bosses to their knees before it clicks empty. It’s more than a gun; it’s the light at the end of the tunnel.

    7. Sub Tank – Mega Man X series

    E-tanks are precious, single-use commodities in the original Mega Man series. In the X series, Mega Man X and Zero can find refillable reserve tanks to make battling deadly mavericks a touch easier. Up to four canteens become permanent fixtures in your inventory, but nothing matches the relief of finding your first one. Being able to continuously farm energy and refill these tanks makes defeating troublesome bosses the gratifying experience it is. And without all four, the final boss is a huge pain.

    6. Gun Powder – Civilization Series

    Plenty of items in games make you feel powerful, but few match the feeling of literally bringing a gun to a knife fight. Upgrading your troops to musket men in the Civilization series grants you the insane sense of superiority that can only come with harnessing the explosive potential of black powder. Unloading on your melee-minded enemies from a distance would give any leader the confidence to take over the world, and in this case you can.

    5. Bullet-proof Vest – Grand Theft Auto series

    Death is commonplace in any Grand Theft Auto game. Not only for the countless pedestrians you kill, but for the anti-heroes themselves. One of the most annoying things about dying is losing all your hard-won weapons. Few things are as aggravating as driving back to your favorite Ammu-nation to restock. Thankfully, if you collect enough hidden items in GTA games you can have weapons dropped off at your safe house for quick access. Better yet, you can gain access to your very own bullet-proof vest, which makes death a little less common. Now if you could only have a live-in escort for a temporary “health boost.”

    4. Empty Bottle – The Legend of Zelda Series

    Link gets his hands on ancient weapons, time-shifting instruments, and magical powers. But one of the most important items in his inventory is a simply glass bottle. No legendary sword or hidden trinket matches the pure versatility of an empty bottle. Players can fill it with health and magic potions, giving them a leg up during harrowing boss battles. But the most potent item to store within is a stray fairy, which will automatically resurrect Link upon death. Unfortunately, for being an everyday object these bottles are very rare.

    3. Power of Mist – Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

    Grates litter Dracula’s castle in Symphony of the Night. In true Metroid fashion, players pass a number of these taunting openings throughout their adventure, wondering how they’ll be able to pass them. Alucard eventually earns his mist form, which allows players to phase through the barred passageways. Even better, Alucard can earn the power of mist to pass unaffected through huge rooms packed with high-level monsters. Invulnerability is a great way to reward players for enduring the castle’s myriad hazards. 

    2. Airship – Final Fantasy Series

    Most Final Fantasy games start out the same: You travel around on foot, battling monsters as you explore the world, town to town. There usually comes a time when you meet a very important person who leads you to a flying ship. You may have to fight a tough boss, endure a dungeon, or perform other favors to earn the right to fly the airship, but it’s always worth it. Soaring far above areas you previously trekked over on foot is a satisfying experience. You can also visit previously inaccessible areas like islands or blockaded fortresses. Plus, once the airship is yours, it’s generally yours to keep. Who hasn’t always wanted their own flying ship to adventure in?

    1. Gravity Gun – Half-Life 2

    Half-Life 2 isn’t a survival horror adventure, but Gordan Freeman does occasionally run out of ammo for his favorite weapon. Alyx Vance gives Freeman a tool that allows him to effortless pick up and manipulate heavy objects. Before long, Freeman’s  weapons are holstered and he’s ripping zombies in half by tossing saw blades at them. The gravity gun is a useful tool throughout the game, not just for launching projectiles but also for solving physics puzzles. Freeman’s final trek up the towering Citadel overpowers the gravity gun to deadly results, making it one of the strongest tools in gaming history.


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    Great ideas are the foundations of great games, and no one can deny that developers today create many entertaining concepts. Even so, sometimes the simple things get overlooked. Every gamer has stopped in the middle of playing and wondered why a developer failed to include an obviously useful feature. Not better loot, different powers, or other game-specific adjustments – we’re talking about top-level interface, design, and usability decisions. These 10 features should be in every game, minimizing confusion and maximizing your ability to customize your experience. All of them are possible, and have been implemented in multiple titles already; now we want to see them consistently applied and standardized across all genres.

    This article originally appeared in issue 235 of Game Informer.

    1. Control Customization: Developers try to find the optimal control scheme for their own games, but the default solution doesn’t work for everyone. Maybe you like the dash and jump buttons reversed, or maybe you have a physical disability that makes the default options impossible to use. Whatever the case, console games -usually don’t offer the option to tune the control scheme to your liking. Sometimes gamers want to do more than just invert the Y-Axis, and there’s no good reason why we aren’t given that freedom.
    Be like: PC games (Half-Life 2 pictured above)
    Not like: Most other games

    2. Good Autosaving: Gamers don’t like losing progress. That’s why a decent autosave system is a necessity in any modern game. Once upon a time, managing your save file was part of the -challenge, but those days are gone. Whether you enter a new area, finish a tough fight, sell some items, or just allocate some skill points, the autosave should kick in. Of course, gamers should still have the ability to manually save whenever we want, but replaying 20 minutes of previously completed content shouldn’t be the penalty for forgetting.
    Be like: Saints Row: The Third
    Not like: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

    3. Pausing Cutscenes Uninterrupted gaming time is great, but sometimes we have to deal with phone calls or other unforeseen distractions, and we don’t want to worry about whether trying to pause the game will result in inadvertently skipping a story-critical cutscene. Here’s how this needs to work: When you press start, whatever is -happening on the screen pauses. Dialogue? Cutscene? Big-budget rendered cinematics? All paused, not skipped.
    Be like: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (pictured above)
    Not like: Grand Theft Auto IV

    4.Skipping Cutscenes Let’s say that you don’t want to pause a cutscene – you want to skip it entirely. This should be an option from the pause screen, where an extra button press lets you skip over whatever non-interactive part you may be watching (including regular dialogue). This option should be available whether or not you’ve already seen the event in previous playthroughs or attempts. Some people don’t care about the story, and others don’t want to scroll through the same conversation multiple times as they try to beat a challenging section.
    Be like: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
    Not like: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

    5. Brightness Adjustment Video game artists spend their time making worlds and characters look as good as possible. Unfortunately, televisions don’t display these graphics exactly the same way. To play the game as the designers intended, we need two things: in-game brightness adjustment and a reference image to ensure the brightness is set properly. Ideally, the game should prompt us to optimize these settings right away, but placing it in an options menu is also acceptable. If you make us manually adjust the brightness on our television instead, you’ve totally blown it.
    Be like: Mass Effect 3
    Not like: Metroid: Other M

    Next: Captions, DRM, and tutorials...


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  • 02/25/13--11:49: Casting Call – Half-Life
  • At this year's DICE Summit, attendees were treated to a panel featuring Hollywood director J.J. Abrams and Valve's Gabe Newell. During the talk, they discussed the possibility of Half-Life and Portal movies. While there obviously aren't any concrete plans or pre-production status of either, it still got us thinking about who we'd like to see in the lead roles of a Half-Life film. Here are our picks.

    Gordon Freeman - Damian Lewis

     

    Alyx Vance - Krisin Kreuk

     

    Barney Calhoun - Kyle Chandler


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  • 09/02/13--13:00: Developer Salute – Valve
  • Few studios boast the diversity of hit titles like Valve. The Half-Life series is celebrated for its innovative gameplay, seamless narrative, and cutting edge technology. Left 4 Dead accentuates teamwork like no other game before it, and was voted the best cooperative game of all time by the Game Informer staff. Portal is the rare puzzle game that eases you gradually into increasingly complicated physics puzzles that always make you feel smart for solving them. It also pulls off the rare accomplishment of mastering comedic timing, a much tougher feat in interactive entertainment than it is in any other medium.

    Over the years, the studio's engineers have developed a reputation for creating some of the best technology in the game industry. The Steam digital distribution service had a rough start, but a series of smart additions has made it the de facto store front for most PC gamers and a hospitable environment for indie developers. The Source engine that powered Half-Life 2 is still going strong, as evidenced by Respawn Entertainment adopting it to build Titanfall (albeit with a highly modified version).  

    Valve's legacy doesn't end with its games or technology; it also has a lot to do with its attitude. In an era where many publishers took a hostile approach toward modders, Valve embraced them wholeheartedly, giving a home to Team Fortress creators Robin Walker, John Cook, and Ian Caughley. Later, the company subsumed the popular Counter-Strike mod built off the Half-Life engine.

    The studio also isn't bashful about speaking from the heart. Outspoken co-founder Gabe Newell is never afraid to share his opinion, pontificating about the failures of Xbox Live, his disdain for the PlayStation 3 (which he later recanted), and Windows 8's disastrous approach to games.

    The company also has a sterling track record of attracting high-end talent. After seeing Kim Swift's DigiPen project, the Narbacular Drop, Valve offered to let her finish the game with the company's resources. The project eventually morphed into Portal. Old Man Murray writers Erik Wolpaw and Chet Faliszek joined Valve in 2005 and played a major role in nailing the comedic tone for GLaDOS. Far Cry 2 creator Clint Hocking also joined the team in recent years.

    As we wait impatiently for news on Half-Life 3, Left 4 Dead 3, or perhaps even a new IP, it's worth taking a moment to thank Valve for all of its hard work over the years. Few studios have such a sterling track record, and that doesn't happen by accident. These games and technologies are the result of unwavering creative vision and a hell of a lot of hard work.

     


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    I don't have to tell you how popular Half-Life 2 has become over the years. However, it's one thing to know something is big and another to experience it for the first time almost 10 years after the fact. A lot has happened in the near decade since its release, but it's a testament to the game's popularity that I can still understand why it's such a phenomenon.

    I can't remember why I never played Half-Life 2 when it first came out, and as the years rolled on, it was increasingly convenient to put it off in favor of newer titles on deck. However, I've always been aware of this embarrassing gap in my video game experience, and planned on righting the wrong in time. I recently started it up, and I was struck by particular elements of the title that I felt stood the test of time, providing a testament to Half-Life 2's quality.

    Graphics are always the first thing to go, but looking at Half-Life 2 doesn't hurt the eyes. Sure, games nowadays shine with better textures and lighting (I played the console version, by the way), but the game has a solid look, and there are also plenty of graphical details and lighting effects to more than adequately set the mood. At one point I was even surprised when I shot a pane of glass to see it spider web and fragment. I wonder if that blew minds at the time.

    In general, one of the abiding aspects of the game – and I say this never having played the first title nor harbored any particular affection for the series – is how the game effectively sets the tone. From the gritty look and location of the levels to the small incidental details you come across in the world (like the refugees or fellow rebels you interact with), you can feel the series' universe come alive. This includes the effectiveness of the minimal HUD, quality voice acting, and strength of the cutscenes.

    It also says a lot about this game that there are titles these days whose enemy AI isn't even up to the caliber of Half-Life 2's. They stick to cover, move around, and are well-placed within levels, sometimes taking you by surprise or encamping far away in a prime sniping spot. Speaking of levels, the game exhibits one of the trademarks of good level design – you don't always know where to go, but you always get there in the end without getting truly lost. I was surprised how big some of the areas are (although there is loading) inviting alternate solutions to problems and making the area around City 17 feel natural.

    One thing that I don't like about the game, although I can only hope it's a relic of the past, is its insistence on incorporating platforming into the mix. Given the lack of peripheral vision inherent in an FPS, I found little joy in trying to jump and land on objects; sometimes requiring pinpoint accuracy. Furthermore, for a game priding itself on its physics, jumping felt slightly floaty, and objects didn't feel weighty enough when manipulated. 

    There has been almost a decade of hype on Half-Life 2, and I think it lives up to it very well. Even at my snail's pace, I unfortunately imagine I'll have more than enough time to finish the other episodes before Half-Life 3 comes out...if it ever does.


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    In Half-Life 2 the player is pulled through one fascinating location to the next. Whether you’re exploring a location as simple as a train yard, or as terrifying as the remnants of a town overridden with headcrabs, the art direction and layout always keeps things interesting.

    No locations, for my personal playthroughs however, are as interesting or memorable as when you finally reach the Citadel. Throughout your adventure, the structure looms in the background demanding your interest. It’s always your goal, and reaching it is no simple task.

    The simplified story of Half-Life 2 is one where aliens have taken over humanity. Your concept of what this means is limited throughout the game, but entering the Citadel puts everything into overwhelming perspective. Fighting an oppressive soldier force in isolated gun battles is one way to inspire distaste for your enemy, but helplessly watching as humans are being transported and collected in the giant factory is both a humbling and infuriating experience.

    As you explore the inside of the structure you’ve seen from a distance the whole game, you can’t help but feel your actions leading up to that point have served little to no purpose. You may have defeated hundreds of Combine soldiers on your way to the Citadel, but what’s the point if their resources and power can create a structure like this?

    Of course, all that changes when a mistake turns your gravity gun from one of the most powerful weapons in all of video gaming to arguable the most powerful weapon in all of gaming. You go from helpless victim of the rotating human-enslaving cog-machine to a super-human ant incapable of being squished, ripping computer consoles off the walls and throwing them at your enemy, destroying the Citadel from the inside. What was previously a terrifying showcase of your enemy’s power turns into a physics playground where you’re the one in charge.

    In a game full of memorable locations and unforgettable moments, the Citadel stands out as an impossible to forget area that expertly showcases both the power of your enemy, and your own.


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    Last week, we took a look at a handful of video game commercials that spoofed other commercials. Here's a few more.

    This is an equally short list compared to last week's, but looking through the comments, it was obvious that I missed some memorable video game spoof commercials that deserve calling out.

    Battlefield: Bad Company
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    Keeping in line the games that start with the letter "B" established in the previous feature, Battlefield: Bad Company spoofs the melancholy, David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club) directed commercial.

    Update: The spot was actually directed by Joseph Kosinski. David Fincher served as a creative consultant. Thanks to @ChanningKing for the correction!

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    It's hard to argue that Gears of War's Mad World commercial wasn't effective, but I always thought it was interesting that it really wasn't very indicative of the tone or even gameplay of the rest of the game.

    The Sims 4
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    You know those Dos Equis beer commercials with the most interesting man in the world? Imagine that, but sort of the opposite, and about the upcoming The Sims 4.

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    If you're having trouble imagining the commercials, here are eight minutes of them all back to back.

    Escape Goat
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    When a trailer is so good that it wins a movie deal for the game before it even releases, then you know you have something special on your hands. The folks over at Coffee Stain Studios recognized the trailer's greatness and must have said, "Let's do that! But you know... with a goat."

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    Here's the original in case you've forgotten what it looks like. Much like the Mad World commercial lfor Gears of War, it's another one that got many excited about the game, but wasn't really indicative of the Dead island's gameplay or tone.

    Half-Life 2 for Mac
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    Steam was a PC platform at its inception and many assumed that was where it would remain. That all changed, however, when Alyx Vance ran into a crowded room of NPCs being brainwashed, and threw a crowbar at a screen. She did it you guys. She really did it.

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    Here's the 1984 Mac commercial that inspired it. It's as strange now as it was back then – maybe even stranger. It's like the short film version of Terry Gilliam's Brazil, but it wants you to buy a computer.

    For more video game spoof commercials, head here.


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  • 04/19/15--11:00: The Essentials – Half-Life
  • The Essentials is Game Informer's weekly recurring feature that takes a look at the most important games the industry has to offer. These games aren't just a ton of fun: Their quality, innovation, and industry influence make them must-play experiences for anyone who wants a greater appreciation of our interactive medium.

    This weekend we're taking a look at Half-Life. It’s the game that established Valve as a force to be reckoned with regarding game design, interactive narrative, and technological know-how. It’s the first time we met the bespectacled hero Gordon Freeman, fought a head crab, and saw the G-Man out of the corner of our eyes.

    Release Year: 1998
    Publisher: Sierra Entertainment
    Developer: Valve
    Released For: PC, PlayStation 2

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    Released two years after Quake and five years after Doom, Half-Life picked up and dramatically rearranged the pieces and mechanics popularized by those two games in radical ways that changed the first-person shooter genre and interactive storytelling  in many significant ways.

    The original Half-Life was Valve’s first release after a group of Microsoft employees (primarily co-founders Gabe Newell and Mike Harrington) left the company to make video games. It is clear from Half-Life’s opening moments that its creators were fans of the first-person shooter genre, but wanted to push it forward in unexpected ways.

    As the opening credits roll, protagonist (and in turn the player) Gordon Freeman is riding a tram through an advanced scientific laboratory. There is no gun in your hand, no enemies to battle – just the opportunity to look over the facilities and take in the environment that would soon be your playground. At that point in time, the shooter genre had been a purely action-focused experience, where you shoot first and maybe ask questions later if you happen to have some free time. To quietly and subtly absorb the atmosphere and listen closely to announcements over the facility loudspeaker for story cues and information about Half-Life’s world was thrilling, and more importantly, entirely effective.

    It didn’t take long to realize that you never leave Gordon’s perspective. Whether you’re simply doing your job, eavesdropping on conversations, or fighting aliens, the whole game is one uncompromised, uncut journey through the Black Mesa facility through Gordon’s eyes. It was incredibly novel at the time and still feels fresh today more than 15 years later.

    Half-Life was built using Quake’s engine, but Valve heavily modified it in order to implement a number of innovations. The biggest of these modifications was in the way enemies and non-player characters moved through the environment. Enemies would flank you, try to corner you with grenades, take cover, and even engage other more imposing enemies if you weren’t the immediate threat. Half-Life is one of the first shooters where you could watch enemies fight each other in tactical ways, and while it was an exciting spectacle, its main purpose was to deliver story and build the world – there was a larger war happening in Black Mesa than the one in which Gordon was immediately engaged. It made you feel like a participant in a living world as opposed to simply playing through a series of challenges designed for your enjoyment.

    The smart A.I. also extended to friendly characters. Scientists would follow you to escape danger, and security guards would try to help you to the best of their abilities. Again, it all fed into the concept of a living world.

    Half-Life was also one of the first games to heavily incorporate in-game scripted moments. Set-piece moments are the cornerstone of shooters like Call of Duty, but Half-Life was among the first to orchestrate large (and often explosive) moments in the game in front of the player to help deliver important story moments.

    Valve went on to release Half-Life 2, Team Fortress, and Portal among other titles, and stands as the biggest technological innovator in the PC gaming space thanks to its Steam game delivery service. All of that wouldn’t have happened, however, without the impressive kickstart Half-Life provided the developer. It’s a classic by all definitions of the word and important benchmark for first-person experiences that still holds up today.

    For more on Half-Life, check out our Super Replay of the game, where we played through it in its entirety. For more of the Essentials, click the banner below.


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    Have you ever wondered how giant creatures and machines from completely different games would look if they stood side by side? We took some of the biggest and most well-known bosses and creatures in video game history and calculated how they would stack up shoulder to shoulder.

    This chart originally appeared in issue 269 of Game Informer, but we're now giving you the opportunity to download it in high resolution. If you'd like to experience this chart in its original form, you can do so through that issue or through our digital archives if you subscribe to our digital magazine.

    Click to enlarge

    To view the full resolution of this chart for printing or close-up examination, you can click the image above or click here. If you'd like to save a local copy for yourself, you can right-click that link and click "Save Link As..." and save it to your computer.

    For more high-resolution charts that you can print out, you can check out our "Every RPG: The Flowchart" and "Will You Survive The Zombie Apocalypse?" charts.


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    As a game series ages, new ideas are introduced to keep the franchise fresh. Some concepts flop or are forgotten while others flourish. A select few even manage to redefine the way players engage with that series. Here’s a list of mechanics that accomplished the latter for their respective properties.

     

    Spin Dash – Sonic the Hedgehog (Introduced in Sonic 2)
    Anyone who’s ever booted up Sonic 1 after playing the subsequent entries knows how jarring it is to revisit it because of the absence of the spin dash. The maneuver became the most effective method of instant propulsion, getting the blue blur up and around platforms quickly and easily. Before that, Sonic had to build a running start that took seconds (basically forever in this series) to get the lead out. Spinning is also handy as a semi-invincible form of travel, efficiently taking out enemies that lie in Sonic's path. As far as we’re concerned, Sonic wasn’t truly about speed until he started revving up the spin dash.

     

    Tranquilizer Gun – Metal Gear (Introduced in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty)
    Metal Gear emphasizes silent, clean infiltrations, so this useful weapon quickly became a godsend upon its introduction. Instead of having to always carefully circumvent enemies, players can fulfill their trigger-happy tendencies and just shoot them down without making a racket or feeling like a murderer. The Tranquilizer Gun is a prime case of having your cake and eating it too, and may as well be grafted to Snake’s palm as it’s remained one of the few must-have items in the series.

    Economy– Assassin’s Creed (Introduced in Assassin’s Creed II)
    One of Assassin’s Creed II’s most engrossing aspects was, surprisingly, building up Ezio’s Monteriggioni Villa. Since then, every Assassin’s Creed has included a form of economy, from purchasing property to sending recruits to fulfill contracts in other lands. The prospect of earning extra dough to unlock and upgrade additional headquarters greatly incentivizes side-activities. I remember going out of my way to earn enough dough to buy every piece of artwork and weaponry to display in my Assassin pad. Best of all, owned establishments generate perpetual income, creating a strong hook to amass more property and, in turn, money.

    Super Combo – Street Fighter (Introduced in Super Street Fighter II Turbo)
    One of the most dramatic additions to Street Fighter II during its long phase of updated installments was these special attacks. Filling a meter while fighting allowed world warriors to unleash a devastating super attack, giving them a strategic ace-in-the-hole to work towards instead of just hitting each other until someone lost. The Super Combo is irreplaceably woven into fabric of Street Fighter, appearing in every major entry since. The concept has also taken various forms in other fighting games, like Mortal Kombat’s X-Ray attacks.

    Sliding/Charge Attack – Mega Man (Introduced in Mega Man 3 & 4, respectively)
    It would take three games before the Blue Bomber gained two of his most invaluable maneuvers. Sliding bestowed players with a needed form of evasion in a game known for lobbing tons of projectiles at players. It also facilitated more creative level design, such as narrow passages accessible only by sliding. Mega Man’s Charge Shot provided a powerful, built-in weapon capable of annihilating foes quicker. In Robot Master battles, the Charge Shot’s powerful wallop makes it an effective backup option when you’ve exhausted the chosen special weapon’s ammo.

    For more game changing mechanics, head to page two.


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    Health, usually represented as a bar or in numerical fashion, is one of the oldest concepts in games. When you run out of it, you're dead or the game is over in some fashion (at least until you reload your save or restart the game). Luckily there are usually items or mechanics designed to help you keep you from perishing. Sometimes games approach this concept of health recovery in pretty interesting ways, so we decided to shine a light on some of the best ones

    From the goofy to the macabre, here are the best ways to get back your health in games.

    Drinking Toilet Water- Fallout


    Look. The Wasteland is a hard place. You often work up a thirst wandering and sometimes you're in a building and the only way to quench that thirst is by drinking out of the grime-covered toilet in the stall next to you. Okay, okay, it's not as appealing as downing a Fiji bottle but it gets the job done...while also giving you a splash of belly radiation. Oops.

    Herbs - Resident Evil


    Yeah, yeah make your 420 jokes and get it out of your system. Regardless of how goofy it may seem at times, Resident Evil's healing system, encouraging you to collect and mix herbs to heal higher amounts of damage, still feels innovative years after the first game's release.

    Painkillers - Max Payne


    I'm fairly certain that painkillers don't work in real life like they do in Max Payne, a series about diving about in slow motion and filling bad dudes with hot lead, but it sure does thematically fit Payne's seemingly never-ending journey of despair and grief. Bonus: they also add another layer of tension and strategy to firefights, encouraging you to takes chances and expose yourself to danger since you can just pop a few pills after getting gutshot and just keep on going.

    Eating People - Alien Vs Predator, Rampage, Legacy Of Kain:Soul Reaver, Infamous


    Sometimes games like to make things really convenient for you and turn your enemies into walking snack packs for you to kill and devour. Whether it's sucking the life force from their bodies as they screech in agony or y'know literally eating them, it's hard not to be amused by the spectacle and efficiency of feasting on foes.

    Heart Containers and Fairy Bottles - The Legend of Zelda


    Both the heart containers and fairy bottles in The Legend of Zelda are some of the most iconic, health recovery-related images in games. Collecting heart pieces increases Link's maximum health, immediately becoming one of those rare collectibles that are actually worth pursuing in games and nabbing a fairy with a bottle and then setting them free later allows you recover your health while you're deep in a dungeon. A helpful and creative aid to the player.

    Star Power -Guitar Hero


    Some people straight up suck at Guitar Hero. I am one of those people, which is probably why I get really into it when I manage to do well enough to activate Star Power and win the crowd back. I mean, I'm still absolute garbage at the game, but it's nice to forget that for a few minutes.

     Food - Bishock Infinite, Dead Rising, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

    Sometimes the best way to restore health in a game is by just munching on a hot dog you grabbed from a trash can during a firefight. Or somehow freezing time during your duel with a dragon to chow down on ten wheels of cheese.

    DIY - Metal Gear Solid, Far Cry


    Some games have taken a more hardcore approach to healing, forcing you to set your own broken bones and apply bandages to wounded areas yourself before your health will replenish. My personal favorite? Sucking the bullet out of your arm in Far Cry 2 and spitting it out. Extremely gross but also oddly satisfying!

    Healing Stations- Half-life, Star Wars: Republic Commando


    Health stations! They're like vending machines that stick you with needles instead of dispensing expired Oreos and Snickers bars. Wait, that's a bad pitch. Ok, well they make cool sounds too. Like this.

    Getting Some R&R Behind A Chest-High Wall - Games With Guns And Lots Of Yelling And Pew Pew Pew


    There's nothing like recovering from what should most certainly be a fatal gunshot to the eyeball by resting behind a wall as your enemies continue executing the same success-guaranteed strategy of unloading their ammunition on your refuge of concrete and sheet metal instead of flanking you. You can probably get some knitting done back there while your wait for your inexplicable Wolverine-like healing powers to kick in.

    Did we miss your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!


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    This feature was originally published March 16, 2016.

    Every hero needs a sage advisor, someone to dispense wisdom and guidance in times of crisis and hardship. Games naturally lend themselves to the presence of a mentor, as developers have a lot to teach players before they turn them loose into their carefully constructed worlds. Unfortunately, these advisors aren’t always as wise as they should be. Sometimes their advice comes out more as nonsensical gibberish than anything else, and sometimes they tend to explain the obvious while leaving the player to work out the frustrating details. Here are some of the worst advisors in gaming.


    Doc Louis (Punch-Out!!)

    Little Mac’s trainer is a former heavyweight champion, and he seems to still be a bit punch-drunk. “Join the Nintendo Fun Club today!” he tells a battered, beaten Little Mac during an encounter with the 600-pound monster King Hippo. Imagine if Mick told Rocky he might want to sign up for Fruit of the Month Club in between his rounds with Apollo Creed. 

    Doc’s not much of a physical trainer, either. His exercise regimen consists entirely of running around New York. Little Mac’s diminutive stature should hint that maybe they need to do something a little more rigorous than just cardio. It’s bulking season, Doc. 


    Professor Oak (Pokémon Red, Yellow, and Blue)

    Imagine for a moment that you are Professor Oak. You have devoted your life to the study of Pokémon, creatures that are so easy to find they literally jump out at you if you walk around in circles long enough. 

    Still, despite your apparent expertise and the sheer number of Rattatas surrounding your home, you somehow have never managed to catalog anything about Pokémon. What’s your solution? Is it to arm two ten-year-olds with approximately 66% of your specimens and send them off to do your dirty work? Because that’s what Oak did.

    Professor Oak is far more diligent about the proper use of fishing rods and bikes than he is about spreading knowledge of Pokémon. He’s constantly watching you from afar, making sure you don’t try to ride your bike indoors or pull out your fishing rod in an inappropriate context. Maybe Oak would be better suited to a career at a Sporting Goods store, actually.


    Navi (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)

    According to Zelda lore, all Kokiri children are assigned a fairy at birth to help guide them through life in the forest. If Navi is any indication of the level of advice these fairies are expected to administer, we can probably assume the lifespan of the average Kokiri child is something like eight seconds. 

    Navi has absolutely no faith in Link’s ability to navigate a 3D space. “Here’s how you look up,” she generously advises the boy destined to become the Hero of Time. 

    Her attention to detail would be acceptable if she also helped with the bigger problems at hand, but when the going gets rough, Navi just sort of gives up. “Look at all these flags! Can you figure out which ones are real?” she asks in the Haunted Wasteland. I don’t know, Navi, but seeing as how I’m currently sinking into a river of quicksand and you’re lazily floating above my head without a care in the world, maybe you could take point on this particular deadly adventure. No? Great. Well, if I run into another giant spider, feel free to summarize its anatomy for me again for the 50th time. 


    Big Boss (Metal Gear)

    Before Big Boss was building bases and fultoning new recruits, he was leading Solid Snake on a mission against himself. Actually, scratch that. It was after. Look, the timeline’s complicated.

    In any case, Big Boss’ turncoat nature once made him one of the worst advisors in games, as he continually “forgets” to tell Snake some important details. You know, little things like landmines and poisonous gas.

    His awful advice is enough to land Big Boss a spot on our list, but the fact that he eventually attempts to blow you to kingdom come with a bipedal nuclear tank makes Big Boss a truly terrible advisor. Future mentors, take note: Blowing up your pupils with tanks is in extremely poor taste.  


    Scientists (Half-Life)

    Take the train into the laboratory, Gordon. Put on the HEV suit, Gordon. Push the cart into the portal and create a world-bending resonance cascade that will lead to the destruction and enslavement of the human race, Gordon.

    Look, sometimes it’s worth checking your math more than once, guys. The scientists from Half-Life must have missed some pretty key calculations in order to screw up as badly as they did. Did you guys remember to carry the one? What happened here?

    Don’t get me wrong; I wasn’t an all-star in math back in high school myself, but I never screwed up an equation so badly that I ended up opening an interdimensional portal to Xen…though I did have more than a few teachers who looked like vortigaunts, so I guess there’s no way to be sure.

    If there’s one thing to be learned from the opening of Half-Life, it’s that timeless lesson we’ve all heard over and over again: Never listen to nerds. 


    Error (Zelda II: The Adventure of Link)

    Congratulations, Legend of Zelda, for managing to be the only franchise with two entries on our list. You’ve really earned it. 

    Due to a rough mistranslation of the character’s name, Error’s introduction has become a classic Internet meme. “I am Error,” he cries. The quote was so famous it even became the title of a book on the history of the NES by Nathan Altice.

    But Error’s withholding some crucial information from Link, namely the frustratingly hidden entrance to the Island Palace. It’s only after chit-chatting with a friend of Error in the harbor town of Mido that Link is able to squeeze the vital information out of Error. 

    Why does Error give the hero such a runaround? Most NPCs don’t even bother to introduce themselves. It’s usually all killer and no filler – no unnecessary pleasantries. “Each town has a wise man,” they’ll say. “Learn from him.” Got it, Random NPC #42. Thank you for not forcing me to go back and forth between two towns in order to hear that little gem of sage advice. 

    Get over yourself, Error. A bizarre first name is no excuse to bury the lead like that. I’ve got princesses to save. I don’t have time for pleasantries. 


    Ford Crueller (Psychonauts)

    After a psychic battle went awry years ago, Ford literally lost part of his mind, and as a result his personality split into multiple “alters,” each one wackier than the last. This means that Ford takes the role of the “wise janitor” to a whole new level of weird. He spends more time burning burgers and raking leaves than helping Raz find his umpteenth collectible in the psychic summer camp. 

    The tragic thing about Ford is that when he’s not off his rocker, he’s actually a helpful guy. He’s just on the border of being a useful character but he can’t quite seem to get there, and that makes interacting with Ford all the more frustrating. Especially in a surreal collect-a-thon like Psychonauts, where every ounce of help is much appreciated. 

    In order to call Ford to his side, Raz waves around a strip of week-old bacon until the smell summons the old man. Don’t take advice from someone who can be swayed as easily as a golden retriever. 


    Barry Burton (Resident Evil)

    Sure, we’re all familiar with Barry dubbing Jill as the Master of Unlocking, but the big lug’s language problems don’t even begin to scratch the surface of what makes him such a poor advisor. 

    It’s not even the fact that Barry goes full turncoat by the game’s third act, either. Barry Burton gives Jill the worst possible advice any character can give someone in a survival horror scenario: “Let’s split up.”

    How does this not seem like a bad idea? In what world has it ever been a good plan to wander through a trap-filled zombie infested mansion by yourself? Imagine how much backtracking the player would be spared if Barry was there to lug around some extra weight. Here, you take these two stone tablets, three keys, this emerald, and this ruby. I’m going to go ahead and grab the grenade launcher, this herb, and all the acid rounds these standard-issue cargo pants can hold. Leave the ink ribbons; I have a feeling this isn’t going to take that long. 

    Splitting up doesn’t even seem to help Jill and Barry cover more ground, as the two run into each other in the mansion every fifteen minutes. In fact, it’s almost as if Barry is just following Jill around and keeping secret tabs on her for some mysterious – oh. Wait. Okay, I think I get it now.

    Who are your picks for worst advisors? Let us know in the comments below.


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  • 04/26/16--16:30: Top 10 Alien Races
  • LV-426 is the name of the moon that is reportedly home to the Xenomorphs. Logically, this means that April 26 is alien day, so in honor of this universal holiday, we thought we’d look at some of our other favorite alien races from games. We have a day for everything now; pretty soon we're going to have to expand the calendar so we can celebrate more things.

    [Editor’s Note: This list first appeared in issue 261 of Game Informer Magazine, and we’re not going to just add the Xenomorphs to it just because it’s their special day.]


    1) Metroids - Metroid series
    When it comes to strange, unfamiliar, and incredible, Metroid’s namesake species is truly alien. These parasitic energy vampires are a rare sight throughout Samus’ adventures, but when they finally appear they pose an immediate and real danger. Little is known about these enigmatic creatures other than the fact that they were bioengineered for combat by the ancient Chozo race. Unfortunately for Samus, they’re good at their job.


    2) Krogans - Mass Effect series
    The planet Tuchanka is a playground of unforgiving biomes and home to some of the deadliest predators in the universe, but the war-hungry Krogran thrived there for millennia, breeding like bored rabbits until a genetically modified retrovirus sterilized their females. Still, these aggressive reptilian bipeds remain as imposing as they are inspiring.


    3) Quarians - Mass Effect series
    The Quarians are a highly advanced engineering society, but after being exiled from their home planet by a race of synthetic creatures they created, the Quarians are forced to drift through the stars on a flotilla of salvaged ships and repurposed technology. Centuries of breathing recycled air has muted their immune systems and forced them into personal hazmat suits.


    4) Space Invaders - Space Invaders    
    Space Invaders do little more than shift from side to side as they scroll down a screen, but Taito’s 1978 arcade hit helped expand the gaming industry from a novelty amusement into a worldwide industry. The pixelated aliens themselves are so iconic that they have essentially become pop-culture shorthand for retro gaming.


    5) Zerg - StarCraft series
    Obsessed with the ideal of a perfect race, the Zerg hunt down advanced species across the galaxy and incorporate their DNA into a genetic melting pot. Dominated by an ancient brain called the Overmind, the Zerg will stop at nothing to consume the galaxy and bring it under their rule.


    6) Thin Men - XCOM: Enemy Unknown   
    Some aliens seek to overthrow humanity through technological or military might; others take a craftier approach. Thin Men may look like well-tailored businessmen with decent verticals, but if you take a closer look, you realize that their entire facade is a mask and a poison-spewing monster can be seen poking through the seams.


    7) Pikmin - Pikmin series
    Not all aliens have to be serious threats to human survival; some can be friendly, even helpful. Some of the docile plant-animal life forms of planet PNF-404 are immune to fire, while others can breathe underwater, but their compliant nature and big doe eyes make us want to do little more than hug them.


    8) Combine -  Half-Life 2
    Posing as humanity’s benefactors, the Combine took over the known world and imposed an oppressive rule. With an empire spread across several parallel worlds, no one knows who leads the organization. It has used its formidable technology to create armies of super-soldiers to ensure it stays that way.


    9) Sangheili - Halo series
    The Covenant is known as the “race” at humanity’s throat in the Halo series, but it is really a collection of several species. The Sangheili are the most recognizable branch in this hegemony. Proud, strong, and intelligent, the Sangheili have proven formidable foes for Earth’s Spartan army.


    10) Maians - Perfect Dark series
    Rare’s take on the stereotypical “greys” from alien-abduction folklore was both surprising and amusing. Not only can these aliens live for centuries, but they are an ideal choice for anyone looking to cheese Perfect Dark’s multi-player, because they are so short that bullets whiz over their heads.

    Don’t forget that you can celebrate Alien Day with a radio drama that takes place between the first two films.


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    Screaming is one of the most passionate forms of expression. Screams can convey joy, terror, rage – they're a versatile communicative tool, pertinent to the human condition (or the condition of any conscious being for that matter). We've all bellowed a scream for one reason or another in our lives. Needless to say, in order to build real characters that foster a sense of empathy within the player, we need to hear some screams, shouts, hoots, hollers, or other variety of vociferation. So, turn your volume down and check out the 10 best screams in gaming.

    Warning: Spoilers

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    10. Arbiter – Halo 3

    While this isn’t the most powerful scream on the list, think about what the scream represents. An intergalactic parasite is on the move, entire species stand to be wiped out, and Thel ‘Vadam (better known as the Arbiter) just dropped the most epic one liner on this side of the galaxy. The dude has four lips. These things must be taken into account in order to precisely measure the quality of a scream. And this scream is quality.

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    09. Screaming Mantis – Metal Gear Solid 4

    You don’t get the name Screaming Mantis without a track record for dominating the scream discipline. Little known fact – the most effective pose for a scream is called The Exorcist. The same concept that allows mothers to lift cars off of their children, known as hysterical strength, is being applied in this situation. When the body contorts in the way Screaming Mantis showcases above, every muscle is contributing its maximum strength to support the vocal cords. The resulting scream can be up to 40 times more powerful than a normal scream.

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    08. Tidus – Final Fantasy X

    Have you ever wanted to scream real loud? Tidus is the poster child for screaming real loud. Everyone take notes. The execution of his scream is flawless; the way he outright states his intentions with a sense of confidence, the brief pause after Yuna’s laugh like she thinks Tidus isn’t crazy enough to actually do it, the accented head grasp putting the exclamation mark on the scream. It says “Hey, I’m the alpha dog. Hear me roar.” He’s not screaming “a little” loud or even “reasonably” loud. This is real loud.  There’s nothing fake about the volume of this scream. For his finale, he looks up to the heavens as if issuing a challenge to any divine beings that dare shout back. None would be so foolish.

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    07. Sindel – Mortal Kombat series 

    It’s difficult to pick just one Sindel scream – Banshee Scream, Star Screamer, Double Star Screamer, Deadly Scream, Sonic Screech, Migraine, Mouthful – she really is the queen of screams. Her ultrasonic screams can blow the skin off her enemies, tear them into pieces, or explode half their head. She can also manifest her screams into fireballs and manipulate sonic waves. It almost seems unfair putting her on this list.

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    06. GLaDOS – Portal 2

    GLaDOS registers a whopping 31 unique pitches in this scream. For reference, the guitar solo from “Stairway to Heaven” contains 27 unique pitches. That’s not a knock on Led Zeppelin, I’m just saying – GLaDOS made this list and Jimmy Page didn’t.

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    05. Daxter – Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy

    There’s nothing quite like the scream of a freshly mutated individual who has just surveyed their new, furry tail for the first time. This scream speaks volumes because, beyond just being obnoxiously loud and resounding around an entire island, we can all relate to this scream. Sure, you’ve never been transformed into an orange, hybrid rodent (presumably), but most people scream like this after just seeing a rodent. Just imagine if you were the rodent. Fortunately Daxter has a fantastic support group, led by Samos the Sage’s professional opinion: “The change is an improvement.”

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    04. Black Mesa Scientist – Half-Life

    The scientists of Black Mesa are well-known for their groundbreaking research into fields such as rocketry, robotics, physics, and genetics. After the Lambda Incident, however, most of these projects came to a screeching halt. One scientist remained determined to complete his linguistics study which aimed to answer the question, “At what point does it stop being a scream and start being art?”

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    03. Brisco – Michigan: Report from Hell

    The uniformity of Brisco’s screams are unmatched by any other character on this list. Throw a wrench into the works, hell, throw the whole tool box, you’re not cracking Brisco. It doesn’t matter what female name he’s yelling, it doesn’t matter how fearsome the monster is, it doesn’t even matter that he’s holding the boom and ruining every single shot with his shouting – Brisco is a screamer through and through.

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    02. Ciri – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

    This is one of those screams that’s so potent that it reverberates in your eardrums long after you’ve actually heard it. Ciri’s scream is so powerful, it forced the Wild Hunt to flee in terror. In a scene that didn’t make it into the game, the Wild Hunt held a meeting following their escape, during which it was agreed upon that they would rename themselves the Mild Hunt. This scream lasts for a minute and 31 seconds and showed no sign of stopping until Avallac’h intervened. If he hadn’t, some say she would still be screaming to this day.

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    01. Ethan – Heavy Rain

    Shaun!


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    We didn't expect August 24 to be the day we finally learned about Half-Life 2: Episode 3's story and conclusion, but here we are.

    Yesterday, Half-Life designer and writer, Marc Laidlaw, posted a blog on his personal website detailing a potential plot summary for what could have been Half-Life 2: Episode 3. It is, in all likelihood, the closest we will ever get to a true wrap-up to the cliffhangers at the end of Half-Life 2: Episode 2, and we really wanted to talk about it.

    We approached this discussion like we would an entry in our spoiled series so warning – Half-Life spoilers are discussed in great detail. If you don't want to know what happens at the end of Half-Life 2's episodes, or you want to read Laidlaw's blog post before listening to other people talk about it, do it now before watching the video. Alternatively, you can also watch this video for a summary of Laidlaw's story if you don't like looking at words.

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    For more on Half-Life 3, check out Reiner's feature from earlier this year, Searching For Half-Life 3.


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    Like many fan games, the development of Super Mario 64 Online started with mutual love for a franchise.

    Kaze Emanuar, a prominent ROM hacker based in Argentina, was approached by the streamer and fan-game developer known as MellonSpeedruns, who prefers not to share his real name. A Mario fan since he was five years old, Mellon found the multiplayer offered in titles like Super Mario Galaxy lacking and wanted to create a true multiplayer experience for open-world Mario fans. 

    “I tried doing some prototypes in Unity, but [they weren’t] successful,” Mellon says. “After a while, I remembered that the SM64 modding community was strong, and that I could do way more with that game. I then decided to contact Kaze and show him a prototype of an online version of Mario 64 I made with signs.”

    (Please visit the site to view this media)

    The fan-made creation attracted attention online through videos showing Emanuar and other beta testers playing together. Soon, the game garnered a following and saw a generally positive early build launch. Emanuar, Mellon, and the other fans were eager to keep building on the project. 

    Shortly after Super Mario 64 Online’s release, however, Nintendo hit Emanuar with multiple copyright strikes. YouTube videos that linked to instructions on how to access the fan game were taken down, and Patreon closed his crowdfunding page after the company received a copyright claim from the Japanese game publisher.

    “I'm dead,” Emanuar wrote in a Twitter post on September 19. “Nintendo just took 20 of my videos and my Patreon down. Nintendo Creator program is not available in my country :(”

    Emanuar’s situation is a regular risk of fan-game development, one of the more perilous methods of displaying an appreciation for a specific video game or series. Sometimes spanning years of multiple people’s lives, fan games are regularly lost in an instant due to copyright law violation, many times leaving their creators with nothing to show for their effort in the end. Despite this, fan games continue to be made year after year, with creators knowing full well the penalties they can incur are as major as the benefits the projects can bring.

    Fan or Filcher?
    While every medium has fan-made creations, fan games require far more time to create, many times shifting what would be the work load of several dozen developers onto a few passionate fans with no direct funding for the project. Mods, which alter or improve a game with fan made codes or additions, are similar in this regard, but are smaller in scale compared to recreating a game from the ground up.

    To cut down on this burden, many fans turn to ROM hacks of games available online, which provide the original code and data from a game to be used for the new creation. However, this practice presents several legal issues. Whether hacking an original ROM to modify a game or re-writing a title from scratch, fan games are released independently and without the consent of the original game or series’ creator while retaining its name, characters, designs, or other recognizable features. As such, these projects are frequently deemed a violation of copyright and trademark laws, which puts the creators in danger of legal action on the part of the IP’s owners. In addition, U.S. copyright law requires IP holders to actively move to shut down infringements on their properties or run the risk of losing their ownership. 

    Nintendo, the creator of several popular franchises with dedicated fan bases, regularly sees itself in this position. Since August 2016 alone, three high-profile fan games have spawned from properties Nintendo owns: Pokémon Uranium, Another Metroid 2 Remake, and Super Mario 64 Online. Each gained large fan followings and attracted attention from major news outlets.

    While Nintendo’s Creator program has allowed for content creators in countries throughout North America, South America, and the Caribbean region to profit from video content related to their games in recent years, fan-made games overstep the limits of the program through the use of their copyrighted assets. This forces Nintendo to file copyright claims in order to hold onto their creation, as was the case with Emanuar’s videos.

    We reached out to Nintendo of America for comment, but it did not provide one. However, in a recent statement given to Polygon following the takedown of Emanuar’s YouTube videos and Patreon, the company stated the following:

    “Nintendo’s broad library of characters, products, and brands are enjoyed by people around the world, and we appreciate the passion of our fans. But just as Nintendo respects the intellectual property rights of others, we must also protect our own characters, trademarks and other content.”

    The consequences of copyright infringement can be far-reaching. While Emanuar says his Patreon’s donations were made independent of Super Mario 64 Online, it was hit with a copyright claim by Nintendo for funding YouTube content, which included access links to the fan game. As such, Patreon took down the page and halted any further donations, forcing Emanuar to start up another page and regain contributors from scratch.

    A Fleeting Frontier
    More often than not, fan games are wiped out completely by copyright takedown orders, leaving creators with either bits and pieces of years long endeavors or nothing at all. The most recent example of this is Pokémon Uranium. A highly anticipated, fan-made project nine years in the making, Uranium was started with the intent of carrying the Pokémon series into more mature territory with darker themes like death and nuclear horror. New Pokémon were created for the entry to use alongside fan favorites, and the team hoped to build on the project long after release.

    “Pokémon is very much a franchise that revolves around children,” says Cody Spielvogel, the current community manager of Pokémon Uranium. “I think the freedom and the ability to flip the script, and provide something that people don’t expect from the regular franchise, is what draws people to [Uranium].” 

    But shortly after release in 2016, the game and its developers were hit fast and hard with takedown orders by Nintendo. Videos and sites with download links to the game received copyright claims or were taken down, and the original development team left Uranium completely to avoid further legal penalties, leaving the project’s fans and supporters with an unfinished dream.

    In the year since, Spielvogel and other fans have pieced the project back together, mirroring and altering the game enough to avoid more takedown orders. The current lead developer Unknown Entity, who prefers not to share his real name, reverse engineered some of the game’s code to provide patches for bugs and is currently trying to finish unreleased content with the original developers’ blessing. Though the project could be taken down again at any time, he continues the work largely for the fans.

    “I’m really still here because no one else will do this,” he says.

    Spielvogel also sticks around because of the fans who continue to support the project and the motivations behind it.

    “None of us came into where we are now with the sole intention of hurting Nintendo or affecting sales or bringing malice to the company in any way,” he says. “We did it because we love the franchise and we love that people are taking these creative strides to make a world of their own.” 

    Labors Of Love 
    While most don’t have happy endings, some fan games do prove fruitful for their creators, as is the case with the Half-Life remake Black Mesa. 

    Designed by a group of fans in their spare time, the project aimed to give the same polish and updates to the original Half-Life that was found in Half-Life 2. The team has put years of effort into capturing the feel and spontaneity of the gameplay while also updating portions that have aged poorly. 

    To increase the project's exposure the team applied Black Mesa to Steam Greenlight. Even though the team was operating as a non-profit, the move offered the chance for gaining support from Valve if the Steam community voted for it as worthy of a full-scale release. 

    “Getting [Black Mesa] on Steam was never about selling it as a retail product,” Black Mesa story lead Ben Truman said in an interview with Game Informer in 2014.  “We would just make the mod free for download from the Steam library. So when Steam Greenlight popped up, we just thought, ‘Why not? Let’s go for it.”

    Through the exposure Greenlight provided them, the Black Mesa team found not only the support of the fan base, but also the backing of Valve, who later allowed the team to monetize the project. A playable build of Black Mesa was released in early access in 2015, with a full release still in development.

    A Test Of Skill
    Others have been able to use their fan made creations as a means of testing their skills and learning more about game development. Such was the case for Milton Guasti, the creator of Another Metroid 2 Remake. Guasti began his project as a means of testing his programming and developing skills. Having played Metroid Fusion and Metroid: Zero Mission, he wanted to apply the same updated visual style of the Gameboy Advance games to the Game Boy title Metroid 2. By designing a remake, he could use the existing assets of the handheld games available through online ROMs as a starting point.

    “Remaking [games] lets you focus on the stuff you need to do research on,” Guasti says. “I didn’t need to waste time figuring out what the world was going to be, it was just working the overall layout and master levels and the overall game design, and so my focus was just learning how to properly program and scripting.”

    Choosing a remake also made for a humbling learning experience. As Guasti got started on AM2R, he quickly discovered how much work and effort went into the design for the many parts of the game.

    “I wasn’t aware of what I was getting into,” he said. “Samus wound up being way too complex to rip properly; way too many animations and frames and combinations of different actions, and everything is different either facing right or left.”

    With the support of the game’s fan base, Guasti pushed through these obstacles and launched the game in 2016. AM2R received a positive reception from fans and press alike, but it was taken down by Nintendo a month later. Unbeknownst to Guasti, the company was working on its own remake of the game, Metroid: Return of Samus, which it revealed during E3 2017 and released this past September.

    In addition to the development experience and positive reputation gained from his project, Guasti captured the attention of Moon Studios. After actively seeking out his contact info through forums, the company’s CEO urged him to apply to work on its upcoming sequel to Ori and the Blind Forest, a game overflowing with inspiration from Metroid. 

    “Like any other applicant, I had to go through a fairly rigorous test to see if I was actually able to join the team, and the entire team is made up of insanely talented people, so I had to be up to very high standards,” Guasti says. “I was able to get through it and here I am, working on Ori and the Will of the Wisps.”

    Looking back on the experience of developing AM2R, he finds it largely positive.

    “The main objective of this project was to learn, to do something with my free time and to be a better programmer,” Guasti says. “Using assets from existing games cut down quite a lot of work and made it actually possible.”

    Walking The Fine Line
    Though the risk of losing everything they made at the blink of an eye remains, the fan-game community shows no signs of disappearing, and companies continue to search for legal ways fans can add to and create from the properties they love. Nintendo’s Mario Maker on Wii U saw over 7 million user created levels as of May 2016, racking up 600 million play counts, and a port for the Nintendo Switch has frequently been requested by fans since the console’s release. Likewise, Bethesda’s creation clubs for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 4 allow players to create content for the game within certain parameters, even allowing fans to make money off of these creations.

    Emanuar continues work on Super Mario 64 Online following the release of Super Mario Odyssey. The project is still accessible to players and hasn’t yet received a cease and desist order. With the recent launch of Odyssey, he hopes his videos will attract less attention. If and when another copyright claim comes from Nintendo, however, he will consider the project dead.

    “I just hope we can gain some of the traction back,” Emanuar says. 

    Meanwhile, the new Uranium team continues their work to complete the game. Though they’ve been able to keep the project up through mirrored versions, they are aware of the constant risk of losing everything via DMCA takedown orders.

    “It’s always in the back of your mind,” Spielvogel says. “Every day that goes by could be the last, and I’d like to think that we would do something, but at this point in time, we don’t have a game plan.”

    Be sure to check out Cody Mello-Klein's coverage of photo modes and the community around them, as well as Ben Reeves' comparison of AM2R against the original Metroid 2 and it's recent 3DS remake.