RE:BIND

Browsing category: Retrofit

Parallax Software’s DESCENT (Interplay, 1994)

“And here I thought indentured servitude ended in the 21st century”

Material Defender, DESCENT II

Parallax Software’s Descent was one of the first games pioneering a different kind of flight sim- ‘6DOF’ or ‘Six Degrees Of Freedom’ was the central gimmick employed to garner hype and attention towards the ‘mine-sweeping’ shooter epic. But how free really are you when confined to tight corridors packed full of prowling killer drones, ready to rip your ship in half? Descent dropped us deep within the confines of not just the cavernous guts of dense mining operations, but the very inner workings of inequality itself.

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The dudes big on discourse.
(Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, Troika Games, 2014)

Just what is a Thin-Blood, anyway? According to some in the lore of Bloodlines, they’re fledgling kindred with a tenuous connection to their forebears, earlier generations of the clans aren’t just more powerful but necessarily more in tune with their origins and the primal energy that drives them. Bloodlines has it’s own in-universe equivalent stand in for the apocalypse for all kindred- the belief that the grand ancestors of yore will once again rise from their slumber only to consume their descendants as the blood runs so thin as to be impotent and dry.

Exhaustive repetition of a concept, once-unique traits with diminishing returns, the newest members inducted into invisible, involuntary social pacts with unwritten etiquette that has visible and harsh consequences for failing to correctly guess them, a paranoid fear of the end times, the belief that the most affected fledglings somehow portend such an ever-present, overshadowing threat. Petty politics, presumed loyalty to an unelected prince, anarchs running rampant, violent sabbat overthrowing all around them to establish furious fiefdoms. Is any of this sounding familiar? If not, it should- in a sense, we’re living it right now.

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The kind of game that hurts to play for all the right reasons. (Homesickened 2015 – by Snapman)

Is home a physical space or a state of mind? Then again, maybe it’s the feeling of booting up a long-forgotten machine, comforting clicking churrs audible as an ancient magnetic platter spins to life. This is, in my experience, the real homeland for many of our generation, a world locked within the shifting grains of decaying binary, digits, and bits left to erode like so many distant ancestral abodes.

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Writer’s Note: This is an older piece from earlier in the year we found rummaging around in the archives, a piece from a different time with a little different style, enjoy!

Half-Life 2: Episode One is one of the most competent VR experiences I have ever played, surprisingly so for a game that was never built for it.

Something a lot of people struggle with in Virtual Reality is how there’s a sense of presence that people find hard to articulate. Using the Oculus Rift felt very underwhelming until, out of the dark rubble of City 17, Dog’s hands smashed through to pull a piece of rubble blocking my sight.

Moments later, I found myself standing under Dog. A faithful robot companion I had spent many years fighting alongside in the troubled setting of Half-Life 2. But there I was, truly standing underneath Dog, towering over me like a giant! Any person I put inside of that headset to experience that opening scene was as shocked as I found myself in that moment.

And that was just the beginning of seeing Gordon Freeman’s exploration of the ruins in a whole new perspective.

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Far from Monolith’s first foray into the grungy underbelly of urban exploration with a violent twist, Condemned: Criminal Origins served up a sampler platter of game mechanics notorious for being utterly disastrous and loathed by players across the globe. First person melee, weapon durability, and exceptionally dark environments seems like a recipe for failure- yet wound up becoming one of the most coveted unique horror experiences of the early 00s.

When I played it for the first time, I encountered the game through a vastly different lens from my fellow fans- I was unable to figure out how the taser worked. In any other game, this would be a relatively minor oversight that would hardly alter the experience beyond inconvenience, but nothing could prepare me for how much this would alter the experience, turning it into a claustrophobic ballet of internalized cruelty.

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CROSSNIQ+ from developer Max Krieger (@MaxKriegerVG).

At the turn of century, humanity began to panic as the future loomed.

Oncoming and unavoidable, the year 2000 was poised to be a time of great change, but much to our chagrin, it was a twist of fate that we had built our lives around such fragile technological marvels that would ultimately prove to be our own downfall. In our relentless pursuit of efficiency, systems built to house information containing dates would only register two numbers: the last two digits of the calendar year. As 2000 rolled in, a sudden fear began to arise that computers for governments or banks would be unable to distinguish between 2000 and 1900, causing irrevocable damage to our infrastructure and usher in an apocalyptic calamity.

These prophetic notions were predominantly held by the fringe of scientific research and society, exacerbated through outlets rapidly cycling through fear-mongering and misinformation. As society questioned the ability of corporations to address the issue in time, the Y2K fervor was the perfect encapsulation of a decade built upon pop culture that pushed hard into a fantastical vision for the future, with contemporary industrial design becoming the turn-of-the-century realization of what sci-fi had promised us in decades prior. Truly, the Y2K Bug is something of our society’s first watershed “cyberpunk” moment, with the misguided and shortsighted actions of the government and faceless corporate entities serving to endanger humanity, alongside an ever-growing online meta-verse, and the push towards a forward thinking “futuristic” visual zeitgeist.

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It’s hard to know what to make of the weird gold rush of FMV games during the early 90s; rail shooters weren’t exactly popular outside of arcades. At the time, it probably seemed like an obvious choice to combine the digital powerhouse of cutting-edge special effects with interactive media like games… until it flopped, hard. Enter ROCKET SCIENCE GAMES, a company that, no joke, literally employed Elon Musk at one point.

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not exactly something you can slip into a .zip file

Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines is an interesting game with a lot of… quirks. Something overlooked is how the game’s style rapidly pivots between the weirdly cartoonish and the plausibly realistic. One can expect to see Dishonored-style facial composition one moment; nigh-photographic portrayals of characters the next. The environments, too, are no exception. From a design perspective, the levels give some real insight on how to capture the zeitgeist and feeling of a place, weaving a visual buffet where only a few things are tactically edible. So, let’s craft some hauntology, shall we?

As I continue my first playthrough (yes, shameful, having had the game for ages yet hardly taking the time to fully sit down with it at length past the beginning Santa Monica drudge) I will be doing a few short writeups on my thoughts and experiences throughout.

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In their early years, before resolving to churn out Gundam and Macross games until the sun burns out, Japanese developers Artdink fiddled with quite a lot of bizarre simulation games. Setting the Japanese train enthusiast world ablaze with incredibly complex railroad simulator A-Train in 1985, it eventually grabbed the attention of Maxis who published the third title on western shores. Alongside that, they experimented with other games such as No One Can Stop Mr. Domino, and Tail of the Sun: one a puzzle game built around toppling anthropomorphic dominos, the other tasking the player with building a tower of mammoth tusks to reach the sun.

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