April 19, 2008 8:00 AM |
['Quiz Me Quik' is a new weekly GameSetWatch column by journalist Alistair Wallis, in which he picks offbeat subjects in the game business and interviews them about their business, their perspective, and their unique view of life. This time... we go a little off the rails.]
I’ve become mildly fascinated with this little mystery lately. It’s a FAQ detailing the ‘programmers door’; an un-openable feature of the designers ending of Chrono Cross. According to the FAQ, there’s a lot of really weird things that can happen in that ending, if certain conditions are met. But, of course, it’s random whether or not they will be met, and so results may vary.
The overwhelming cynic in me suggests pretty much immediately that this is complete crap. It’s entertaining crap, at least, and seems to have enough basis on what really happens in the game to be believable for some people, but crap all the same.
But then, some people – especially younger gamers – will believe anything. I’m not talking about the EGM Sheng Long prank style stuff so much as simple playground stories. Things like the hidden level on the island above the Top Secret Area in Mario World; hidden characters in Wrath of the Black Manta, and so on. Stories that are products of a time when technology hadn’t quite caught up with the imaginations of nine year olds yet.
There are two examples that stand out for me. When I was younger, I only really had a 286 for games; we did have an Atari 2600, but it was pretty well broken by the end of 1988. Most of the games played on said 286 were “gifts” from a friend of my sister, and didn’t come with any documentation. Therefore, I had little idea of how to actually play them, and so when my friend Michael Trewartha told me in year four that he knew how to get further in two particular titles that had stumped me, I was all ears.
In a way, that’s something infinitely more insidious than April Fool’s jokes in magazines. That’s taking advantage of the trusting innocence of someone who doesn’t even know how to play the game. That’s not making up tales about how you found a secret ending for Double Dragon II which involves the evil clone end boss turning into a two headed dragon – it’s deliberately misleading someone looking for help in a basic sense.
And so, I tracked down Trewartha to ask about this gross displacement of trust, and to fish for an apology that should have occurred 16 odd years ago.
Michael Trewartha: [Laughs] This is what you wanted me to be on the record about? I don’t, no.
GSW: Okay, I don’t think this is a laughing matter, but basically, Baal was a pretty badly received side scrolling shooter from Psygnosis. Star Goose was a top down shoot ‘em up that was also badly received at the time, which I believe was around the late ‘80s. Maybe ’88 or ’89.
I’m telling you this because in year four, when we were both in Mr Harris’ class, those were two of the games I played quite a bit of, and I recall telling you at one point that I was stuck in both of them.
MT: I don’t remember that, but okay.
GSW: Well, what I remember is telling you I was having problems with them, and then you telling me that you knew a bit about them because your older brother had them on the computer and had clocked them.
MT: That’s possible, yeah. He played a lot of games, and I don’t really remember many of them. I was more interested in the Master System, and then later we got a Mega Drive. Remember?
GSW: That’s completely off topic for the focus of this interview, I think.
Let’s tackle Baal first. I could get past the first section of the game without being hit at all, but following that it all opened up too much and I had no idea where to go. It was a weird design, because there was only really one way of getting through the first section, but it was a very non-linear game from there on, because it introduced a jet-pack. One day, you told me that I needed to climb as high as I could, then go to the left, because there was a hidden walkway that would lead to some kind of ultra-powerful weapon.
I attempted to do that as soon as I got home from school, only to find that I fell to my death. After trying another 20 or so times, I rang your house. I’d say this was probably around 7:30pm, or so? Your father picked up the phone, and proceeded to yell at me not to take too long, because he was expecting a business call, and this was before mobile phones and such.
Okay, he might not have yelled, exactly, but I was a pretty sensitive kid, and he was an authority figure of sorts, I guess.
MT: Because he coached the [Australian rules] football team?
GSW: Yeah, though I think I’d quit after year three, because I ended the season with two handballs and a throw. And one of those handballs was a throw anyway, but I think the umpires felt sorry for me at that point and just let me get away with it.
Anyway, do you remember what you told me to try, that time?
GSW: You told me to jump into the jumping demon that was near the start of the second area. Does that even make sense to you?
MT: I still don’t really remember this.
GSW: But does it seem like a logical move, would you say? I mean, does that seem like something designer Wayne Smithson might have programmed into the game?
MT: I guess not, but I really don’t know what game you’re talking about.
GSW: Baal. We’re talking about Baal still.
MT: I never played Baal.
GSW: I know – that’s what I’m getting at. You told me to jump into the demon, and I believed you, because you said your brother had clocked the game. But when I tried it, did it work?
GSW: No. It didn’t. And I was so scared about calling you back, because I thought your dad was already angry with me for calling once, and it was 8:15 by this time – almost bed time. I hated the phone enough already.
But I did call, you know? And your dad was really short with me that time, and he gave the phone to you, but he yelled at you as well – and then you had to admit to me that you’d never played the game or even heard of it.
MT: [Pause] Okay.
GSW: You don’t think that’s bad?
MT: Yeah, I guess. I mean, it wasn’t very nice, but we were just kids and that’s the kind of thing kids do.
GSW: Easy to laugh off, right?
GSW: Yeah. Until it happens again. [Silence] You don’t remember it happening again?
MT: I really don’t.
GSW: Let me refresh you. It was later in the year – I believe it might have been August or so, and we were both in the soccer team just after playing against Happy Valley. James Lutterus’ mum was taking us both home that day, and in the back of the car when I was talking about Star Goose, you told me you knew how to get through the game.
Now, I mean – keep in mind I had absolutely no idea how to play this thing. I kept trying to get to the second level, but with absolutely no luck, because I didn’t have a manual. I just ended up repeating the first stage over and over again because when you came to the end of it, it would spit you back out at the start unless you completed a certain goal. And I had no idea what the goal was.
I didn’t even find out until years later that you didn’t play as a goose; that was just the name of your ship.
MT: I don’t remember this game either. We did play Sonic 2 a lot though, remember?
GSW: Yeah, I do, and your mum yelled at me for being too loud when we were sitting in the lounge room playing it, but that’s totally irrelevant to this issue at hand, okay? We can maybe go over that later or something.
The point is, you told me that if I flew through the stage 50 times then I’d fight the boss, which was a giant space dragon. When we had to write in our journals the next Monday about what we did over the weekend, I wrote all about that. Mr Harris had no idea what I was going on about, I’m sure, but he double ticked it because he could tell that I was pretty bloody excited about being about to finish the level after trying for months. Years, maybe.
I think by now you should be able to guess what happened?
MT: I would guess that it didn’t work?
GSW: No. I sat there for hours trying it. Literally five hours to do it 50 times. It took me a week to actually get it right, and to do it without dying, and then nothing happened. [Silence]
I just think...[Pause]
Just that maybe it’s something that you should be aware of. I mean, I just think that I was maybe taken advantage of, and that I placed a lot of trust in what you said, and I don’t think it paid off, and I felt a little let down by that.
MT: Right. Look, I really don’t remember any of this. [Laughs]
GSW: Yeah. [Silence] Okay. Well. Yeah.
Categories: Column: Quiz Me Qwik