RE:BIND

Browsing category: Retrofit

Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force (2000) – by Raven Software and Activsion
Star Trek The Next Generation: Klingon Honor Guard (1998)
– by Microprose

There was a sentiment in many game communities in the early 00’s that you just couldn’t make a satisfying shooter game set in the universe of Star Trek. The aspirational sociopolitical commentary of the show with its emphasis on intercultural understanding came across to most as bereft of action potential despite its imaginative settings, fierce naval conflict, factional strife, and well-established arsenal of exciting technology.

The struggle to adapt Star Trek‘s more passive nature into a satisfying action romp was perpetually brought out as an argument against even trying to tackle this fool’s errand whenever there was anticipation of another franchise entry that would seemingly disrupt or misinterpret the storytelling strengths established by The Next Generation. Voyager, however, was a rulebreaking contender, well-known for a fire-tempered might-makes-right captain that made the show uniquely ripe for adaption, culminating in finally pulling off the unthinkable: a fun and gritty Star Trek shooter… the only thing is, it wasn’t the first.

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For many years, the general public has had a misconception about the nature of Shakespeare, regarding his collective works as the pass-time of the upper-class and intellectual elite on par with opera. With funny accents and fancier words that are seemingly incomprehensible to a more modern audience accustomed to the casual pulp noir tone of radio plays and the action-packed police procedural that followed later with the advent television, the performance arts gradually fell out of favor.

The truth is, as many know, that Shakespeare’s plays were actually an extremely mundane form of entertainment in their time, on par with our perception of media in the vein of going to the movies or seeing a musical. His productions often tackled humorous or tragic concepts that everyone could relate to- love, daily life, sex, rivalries, and conflict, presenting them in a way that was engaging for the general populace and at times absurd. After all, community theater is just one step in a long lineage of narrative tradition, itself having supplanted wise elders at the campfire ingratiating their families with some nighttime storytelling.

So… what’s this got to do with Half-Life?

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(Final Fantasy XIV [1.0], Square-Enix, 2013)

Countless times through the ages, hundreds of thousands (if not more) fans and players of a multitude of MMOs have congregated in streets, fields, and other such spaces across their worlds; banded together in solitude against the breaking of the light as their preferred online space/game is forever shut down. After a night of dancing emotes, tearful goodbyes, exchanges of contact info, finally, the servers are turned off, and all goes black. Months and years of memories shared amongst friends, old and new, are lost to the ether of time.

The end never comes the same: a meteor collides with the game world, admins summon a legion of demons to murder the players over and over, or a silent simultaneous worldwide death descends on the remaining few. Regardless of method, the end of an MMO always feels like the end of an era for its playerbase. Many pump endless hours into these games, build massive social networks, and eek out every ounce of fun the game could possibly contain — and, when necessary, make their own. The freeform play of MMOs brings together all kinds, and when the bills can’t continue to be paid for upkeep, all of these people unite once more in the face of loss.

That is until those fans rob the grave and prop the body back up to keep the fun going.

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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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