Archive for April, 2011

Freelance Chronicles: 222222222

Monday, April 25th, 2011

As I mentioned before (briefly), my first paid writing gig was for Hardcore Gamer Magazine, a monthly publication that rose from the ashes of Diehard GameFan, an infamous gaming magazine from the 1990s. Hardcore Gamer was launched by several members of GameFan’s former staff, and sought to recreate GameFan’s fun tone and focus on niche gaming…preferably, without the ethnic slurs and LSD-inspired Atari Jaguar reviews.

In its second year of publication, Hardcore Gamer teamed up with viral marketing company FanPimp and began promoting itself through a community-driven website called Luv2Game. Luv2Game awarded users with prizes (mostly free gifts and promo items we collected from publisher PR) for completing site activities, making forum posts, and otherwise showing interest in the magazine.

Sounds like a winner, right? Who doesn’t like free stuff?

In reality, the setup fostered the kind of meaningful interaction that resulted in forum topics like “Mexicans: What do you think of them?”

Every day, I sat at the sidelines, watching the site circle the drain. People abused the system, cheated for points, and didn’t care about HGM in the least. User interaction was so shallow and self-serving that it was insulting to the work I’d put into the magazine.

Eventually, I couldn’t take it anymore. I registered at Luv2Game’s forums and began a campaign of terror, ridiculing anyone who deserved it and ruining threads with pointless nonsense. I received warnings from the site’s moderators for my behavior, until they discovered that I was an editor for the magazine, after which my shenanigans were met with an awkward silence.

This continued on for several weeks, until it became obvious that Luv2Game needed new leadership. Seeing that I showed greater interest in the site than any other HGM editor (even if it was just to call people idiots), my boss made me the community manager of Luv2Game.

I wasn’t paid for the position, but I was promised a fat monthly paycheck if I was hired on full-time after an initial evaluation period. The “evaluation period” dragged on for six soul-crushing months, after which I relieved of my duties. The site shut down soon afterward. I was never paid.

During my time as Luv2Game’s administrator, I judged contests, quelled forum uprisings, and pored over pages and pages of inane gaming discussion to make sure that nobody was talking about Mexicans. Years later, I remember very little of it in particular, recalling only a vague sense of unease and nausea.

One thing I do remember — and will never forget — is 222222222.

“222222222” (that’s exactly nine number twos) was the name of a Luv2Game user who was determined to win every contest on the site. Each time I uploaded a new challenge, 222222222 would immediately enter it. This person answered every poll, responded to every survey, and made exactly the minimum number of forum posts required to earn points each month.

222222222’s specialty was fanart. Though I never chose him or her as the winner of a single contest, 222222222’s unwavering resolve was inspiring, and of the hundreds of drawings, screenshots, and poems I judged at Luv2Game, 222222222’s entries were the only ones I saved. Here they are, along with all of 222222222’s original commentary.

“Zelda is surrounded by darkness drawn inpending enemy in the mountains ,but show he was secure in inpending victory”

“The Video game Legend of Zelda a fine articulate game ,find the Elf in a forest in joyeous overshock and ready to do battle with crossbow in hand .”

“Dragon Quest The Princess the globe the sword in 3d”


Smashing Drive (Gaelco, 2000)

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

I want to talk about Gaelco. Because someone has to.

Gaelco is a Spanish developer of…ah, let’s call them “lower-tier” arcade games. Its catalog largely consists of clones, cheaply produced original titles, and games that are just shy of what would be considered “good.” Few of Gaelco’s games (exactly two) were ever ported to consoles, and many of their best-known efforts were never released outside of Spain.

If you’ve heard of Gaelco at all, it’s probably because of Smashing Drive, an arcade Crazy Taxi knockoff that, for whatever reason, Namco’s North American branch identified as a surefire hit and subsequently ported to the Xbox and GameCube in 2002. The game was a moderate success in arcades, but flopped on consoles, largely because you can finish the thing in about an hour and never have any reason to return to it.

Smashing Drive itself is not a remarkable game. It’s fun in a shallow sort of way, and it’s worthwhile for the 99 cents-plus-shipping you’ll pay for it on eBay nowadays. The only truly exceptional thing about Smashing Drive is its transcendent soundtrack.

Yeah. This plays in the background during the first level, and you’ll hear it loop many times over by the time you get to the second stage. It’s bizarre, isn’t it? I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more abrasive and less intelligible vocal song in a video game. The lyrics are in English — I think — but what are these words?

Upon first listen, I had the feeling that I’d heard this song before. Somewhere around the 20th loop, it hit me: it’s a total ripoff of Rob Zombie’s “Dragula.” More specifically, it’s modeled after the Dragula remix in Jet Grind Radio — it even uses the same flanging and stutter effects, in the same places. Except, well, somewhat ineptly.

This track plays in the second level, and it’s at least a little easier to understand. I can pick out individual words and phrases, anyway.

It’s probably a ripoff of something, like the first song is, but it’s not immediately identifiable. The guitar riff reeks vaguely of Aerosmith. And now that I think about it, the vocal style kind of resembles “Walk This Way.”

Among the few lyrics that I could decipher:

– “Heeeere we go againnnnn”
– “One two three four. One two three four. ONE TWO THREE FOUR. ONE TWO THREE YEAAAHHHHH
– “LOOSEN UP YOUR DIAPERS” (Huh? And what’s said afterward? “Get your crotch curling?”)

This one’s catchy. It’s also a complete ripoff of something that I know I’ve heard before, but can’t quite recall. Parts of it remind me of Franz Ferdinand, but Smashing Drive was first released in arcades in 2000 — Franz Ferdinand didn’t exist until 2002. Smashing Drive was clearly ahead of its time.

The melody at 1:16 was totally stolen from Cream’s “I Feel Free,” though.

So hey, here’s a fun thing to try: listen closely to these songs and try to figure out what words you’re hearing. There are no officially published lyrics that I’m aware of (or an official soundtrack release, for that matter). Can anyone decipher them? If you have any guesses, post them in the comments!

[Next time: Radikal Bikers]


Friday, April 1st, 2011

Happy April Fools’ Day! Perhaps you’d like to play a game with a superpowered wrestling ape in it. If that’s the case, I wrote up a little thing about Bio Force Ape here at Lost Levels. Would you believe that there’s a downloadable ROM in there somewhere? Dare you believe?

The article also includes a full playthrough from TheRedEye himself, Frank Cifaldi. It’s just like the good old days! Stay tuned — I’m converting Dream and Friends into a self-loathing blog/ROM distribution site in preparation for Weird-Ass Pirate Multicart Day 2011.