Archive for September, 2011

It Ain’t Easy Makin’ Games: Top 8 Video Game Cheats, Hacks, and Codes

September 20, 2011 Leave a comment

In this final whirlwind post of the “It Ain’t Easy Makin’ Games” series, our dear readers will be hit with a rainstorm of cheats, a blast of hacks, a hurricane of codes to rival the freak storms that have been pummeling the American East Coast in recent weeks and preventing some loyal players from feeding their troops. Let the games begin.

8. White Treasure Ship in Super Mario Brothers 3

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This cheat is great not only because it appears in one of the greatest Mario games ever but also because it’s just so damn complex. A far cry from simply mashing the right series of buttons at the right time, the coin-laden White Treasure Ship appears only if you are in World 1, 3, 5, or 6; one Hammer Brother is on the world map; the last two numbers in the number of coins you possess is a multiple of 11 (for example, 33); the tens digit in your score is the same number as the last two digits in the number of coins you have (in this example, 3); and you finish a stage in a time that ends in an even number. Only then may you board and collect the bounty of this ghostly pirate ship—and, even then, you have to make sure you can access it on the world map. Phew! [1]

7. Talking Crab Merchant in Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

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“Where is the talking mudcrab?” is a question raised by countless Morrowind players on forums across cyberspace. Apparently this clever arthropod resides on a small island southeast of another island called Mzahnch, and the ability to walk on water is a prerequisite for reaching it. But why venture to the far corners of the map just to converse with a nondescript crustacean that, by some accounts, looks like a rock? Well, because it is not only a talking mudcrab but also a trading mudcrab, and since it lives in such a remote place, it will buy your goods at a very favorable price! [2]

6. Doom God Mode

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The God Mode to end (or, rather, begin) all God Modes, this fear fest of invincibility (barring attack involving telefrags or extremely powerful weapons, usually found only in mods) can be unlocked with a simple but cryptic “IDDQD” typed in during gameplay. Doom II brought the advent of Hell on Earth, perhaps, but this sounds like heaven to me. [3]

5. Syndrome

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One of the first and most successful hacking programs in a series of illegal World of Warcraft mods, this program gives abusing players myriad unfair advantages ranging from extra speed to immunity to fall damage and teleportation powers. While we certainly can’t earnestly call unfair infractions of MMO rules a “best” cheat, Syndrome still deserves a spot on this list for being notable in its own right.

4. Mortal Kombat Blood Mode

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Thanks to the ever-present and oft-superficial moral traditions of conservative American society, Mortal Kombat developers Midway decided to censor the blood in the Sega Genesis release of this fighting hit (no pun intended; I swear). But they did not, however, forget to include a cheat code that enabled the return of the gore with a quick press of ABACABB on the Code of Honor screen, allowing MK to pander to our Puritan parents but also make at least some contingent of bloodthirsty gamers happy. Normally, making a game more graphic and violent might not seem to be a good thing. But in the name of independent thought and free choice, the Mortal Kombat Blood Mode deserves a spot on this list. [4]

3. Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, (Start)

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Immortalized in a catchy rock song by the Ataris and named the number 1 cheat code in video game history by Cheat Code Central, this familiar sequence of buttons is best known as the Konami code. It first appeared in Gradius for NES with the effect of giving the player a fully equipped ship but is perhaps best known for its appearance in Contra. [5], [4]

2. Game Genie

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All right, not a single cheat or hack per se, but who can forget this lovely add-on to early consoles like NES, SNES, Game Boy, and Sega that enabled you not only to swiftly enable a library of hacks for countless games but also program your own cheats? Its design was admittedly cumbersome (fitting it into your NES with a game attached was about as easy as rubbing a real genie out of your living room lamp), but its results magical (who could forget moonwalk Mario?).

1. World of Warcraft Kinect Hack

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Aiming for something much more worthy than a silly teleportation bot, a team of researchers at the University of Southern California have built a software interface between Kinect and World of Warcraft called Flexible Action and Articulated Skeleton Toolkit (FAAST), which allows you to substitute body motions for keyboard hotkeys and literally immerse your physical body in, well, the world of Warcraft. While the technology is currently primitive and, as developer Eric Suma reports, “isn’t going to be a substitute for your keyboard and mouse,” it is a step in a direction of some very compelling possibilities, among them more active and generally healthier gaming. And it’s open-source; hooray! [6]

And that’s it for our brief series of It Ain’t Easy Makin’ Games. Through it, we’ve time-traveled back to a variety of classics and favorites, checked out some console-eating and even OS-killing errors and patches, shaken hands with metal primates and Nintendo’s very own gloved Master, and, we hope, gained a greater appreciation for how difficult and complex an endeavor it is to churn out something like Call of Duty, Imperial Warfare, or even just Fruit Ninja—because, truly, it ain’t easy makin’ games.









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The Wikiddiction of Online Games

September 13, 2011 Leave a comment

It seems nowadays that any online game—or really any production of popular culture—worth its salt has at least one Wiki: Eve Online, World of Warcraft (you knew I was going to mention it), Final Fantasy, the Matrix, Game of Thrones.

This isn’t surprising. The most captivating games, like the most compelling books, movies, even paintings or pieces of music, are ones that draw you into their worlds in such a way that you can’t completely pull yourself out, even when you’re not playing. A guitar riff on the radio might call up a snatch of the opening theme; an interesting building facade, a glimpse of your favorite dungeon; a certain laugh, memories of the villain’s last cut scene—the game wraps itself around your mind, seeping into the deep reaches of your reward centers like a dopaminergic drug. And this addictive condition, this beautiful enslavement to something otherworldly, makes you want more. You stretch your mind and memory to the edges of the game world’s contours and hunger for knowledge about its unseen histories, backstories, possibilities. And at the same time, you brim with yearning to actualize the lovely excitement that the game inspires, to heighten its presence by making it explicit and recognized by others. You need a massive data reservoir to provide the answers you seek, and, at the same time, some concrete project into which to bleed off all this wild creative energy.

And what better place to feed both curiosity and creativity than the game Wiki?

Read the life histories of secondary, tertiary, hardly mentioned or nonexistent characters. Hypothesize about the drop rates of your favored items in every possible scenario. Publish your fan fiction to a steady stream of hungry visitors. Feast on a cornucopia of screenshots, concept art, fan art, and myriad perspectives on every corner of the universe you just can’t get out of your head. And express your effusive excitement about these discoveries by writing about them. Unlike physical guides, Wikis are cheap to store and can be filled to bursting: The Guild Wars Wiki alone has more than 17,000 pages, despite being an unofficial fan-based supplement to the official version—try fitting that onto a bookshelf at Barnes and Noble without taking out the Amazon (rainforest, that is). And unlike official online novice guides, Wikis can turn over new data from tergiversating game worlds just as fast as the data are produced by frequent updates and expansion packs: A quick glance at the World of Warcraft Wiki activity page shows a steady stream of new content added about every ten minutes. And, the best part is, the data come from you, the players hungering to mesh the world of your beloved games ever more tightly with the other aspects of your lives.

For a game to be successful, it has to be become an identity-defining lifestyle for at least some of its players. And by offering not only a massive amount of satisfying input but also ample opportunities for creative output, Wikis are a powerful tool for actualizing this scenario.

So why don’t y’all just step over and give the Imperial Warfare Wiki a nice big hug?


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It Ain’t Easy Makin’ Games: Easter Eggs So Old They’re Rotten

September 6, 2011 Leave a comment

For the last few installments of this segment, we’ve examined what happens when inconsistencies and outright errors are inadvertently introduced into both console and computer games. This time, we’ll go back to looking at the same kind of complexity—only now it’s intentional.

From a completely new quest in the NES Legend of Zelda for main characters named “Zelda” to the John Romero boss in Doom II, intentional oddities in video games—sometimes referred to as Easter Eggs but often just called cheats—actually lend verisimilitude to a game by making its world just a bit more unpredictable and thus nearer to our own. Sometimes the hype surrounding an Easter Egg becomes more real than the cheat itself—like the apocryphal cow level in Diablo (finally followed up by a real one in Diablo II) and the fabled but impossible nude cheat in Tomb Raider. While some may decry the way such cheats pop the fantasy bubble that helps us suspend our disbelief, they’re definitely a good way to keep even the most experienced gamers on our toes. The cake, after all, might always be a lie.

9.  Waverace Blue Storm: Sarcastic Announcer Voice

Usually this column focuses on cheats or features that are particularly memorable or at least well known, but this one is striking for the exact opposite reason—that it was left unnoticed for nine years after the game was released.

In the Waverace Blue Storm racing game for Gamecube, apparently pressing “Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, A, X, Z” on the sound options screen after setting the sound visualization mode to “vertical rising fog” by tapping “Z” changes the race announcer from a perky professional to a sarcastic and bored-sounding dude who heckles at more than encourages you. “You don’t have an inferiority complex; you’re just inferior,” stands among the gems that this man throws at you.

Except nobody cared—for nine years. Too bad.

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