3. Quakes and Remakes

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Quakes and Remakes

 

Smitty reveals some of the challenges he faces in running Special Reserve Games, while Erik reminisces about some of his favorite video game remakes. They both get shook up about the Game of the Week.

Games You Deserve is a weekly podcast from Special Reserve Games that celebrates the digital art of video games. Join us for gaming industry interviews, insider perspectives, and interactive content. Production by Dan Vadeboncoeur. Music by Jesse Hamel. New episodes drop Sundays at 9:00 a.m. CST.

Listen below (or on your favorite podcast provider) and don’t forget to subscribe! Links and transcript follow beneath the player.

 

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Transcript

Erik: I'm Erik. This week on Games You Deserve, we're talking about video game remakes, plus.

Smitty: I'm Smitty. I'm going to get into what made Special Reserve Games tick, plus.

Dan: I'm Dan. Things get all shook up for the game of the week.

Erik: Recently, I've been loading up a bunch of older FPS games and I've been playing all kinds, digging through the old library, and so that kind of made me think that maybe this week's game of the week would be a nice classic FPS like Quake and the Quake franchise.

Smitty: I've heard of that. It comes from the small town of Mesquite, Texas.

Erik: You've heard of Quake?                              

Smitty: Not earthquakes. We're talking about Quake, the precedent setting, the amazing id software, published Quake, first person shooter.

Erik: I've heard so many people say I-D instead of id.

Smitty: I am probably one of those people back in the day because I mean geez. I think the first time I got introduced to Quake was at a cyber cafe and I didn't own—

Erik: Do they even have those anymore?

Smitty: I'm going to say—

Dan: Everywhere, it's called everywhere because everywhere there's internet.

Smitty: Once again, and this shows maybe some of my incompetence because I haven't traveled there, but in parts of Asia, I think there's still some cyber cafes, not the arcades that we're talking about, but actually cyber cafes if you will, I don't know. Back in the day before really everybody had dial-up internet, if they even had dial-up internet at all and I mean cell phones were barely even a thing back in this day. Cell phones were, I think Sprint and AT&T were just bringing cell phones to North America around this time. This was when Quake came out.

Erik: Do you remember that feeling, the first time because we probably played before that some of the ones that came a little bit before, right? You had your Doom, you had Wolfenstein 3D, but Quake was different, man the first time you loaded that up.

Smitty: Yeah. I mean you've got... Then even the minds that came behind, the same people that brought you to Commander Keen or Doom or something, you can see evolutions. I remember... I think the game Quake itself what it represented to me was, it was the first true multiplayer game I ever expressed. It was probably Quake II that I'm actually going to say that about, but I think that's when I was really like, "Oh, is that multiplayer or is it Quake III?"

Erik: Quake III Arena is where that really blew up though.

Smitty: That's what I was saying. It really blew up because we would, I think I've talked about it from time to time. There was a server in Denver, Colorado, and I grew up in Oklahoma, but in Denver called the cooler and that had the lowest ping of any server that was hosting Quake. Back in the day, the game publishers and the game developers, they didn't run their servers. They didn't have a game server that you... You had to own the game, you had to download the game, make sure that your PC ran with your graphics accelerator, your sound cards, everything jived. You had to figure out a way to get a low ping type server somewhere that you and all your friends could go connect to. That server would host the multiplayer games free to play.

Dan: Quickly explain to me what is low ping? That sounds like a character from Big Trouble in Little China to me.

Smitty: Low latency, just that your packet loss is really low, so you have a faster internet connection.

Erik: No, no, no. Hold on. You're giving the layman's terms. Let me get into the technical of this for two seconds because that's where I live.

Smitty: That was pretty technical if you were my mom.

Erik: You're probably right. You're probably right.

Smitty: You'll probably just use science words there.

Erik: When you are on a network and you're communicating, the time that it takes for the information from you to get to somewhere else and back, right? That's the speed, the latency that it takes to do that. The faster you can get there and back, the better you're going to be at being able to click on heads back in the day when you're playing an FPS because it wasn't like today. They didn't have all this error correction and time correction built-in where modern game realizes the lag and compensates for that.

Smitty: Isn't this a reference, a ping then that come from pings in outer space or a sonic ping or something like that.

Erik: Maybe.

Smitty: That's what I talked about.

Erik: I always go back to sonar, the idea of send one ping and it sends out the sound and then the sound wave comes back.

Dan: One ping only. I'm doing the Shawn Connor product over.

Erik: Yeah, good stuff. You get that whole latency idea and back in the day, the lower that latency was, the more fun it would be because you would definitely be clicking on people.

Smitty: It gave you an advantage back. There wasn't a leveling system, if you will. If you had a fast, super fast computer and you lived right next to the server, then you're probably going to kill people just the half second faster because you're going to see them a half second before they see you, so the advantage is there for you. Games like Quake, companies like id, of course these are all, a lot of them are great friends of mine like Adrian Carmack, great guy, wonderful. John Carmack, I kind of knew a little bit, but our children went to school together. His son's younger than my daughter. They went to the same school.

Erik: What about Romero?

Smitty: Romero, John Romero, I wouldn't call him a close personal friend, but he's definitely a good industry friend and I've been to his house, so I'll say that. I worked with John on some stuff that they were doing for Nokia back in the day when he had a company called Monkeystone with Tom Hall and Stevie Case, where they were making mobile games very much... It wasn't a porting company. They were making first party software, first party games, and so it was pretty neat to see all the minds out of there. You also had Paul Steed, you had Kevin Cloud, he had people like Sandy Petersen in there, American McGee, Tim Willits. I mean, you had some really... Some of these people have gone out, and these are icons of the industry. American McGee, if you look up the game, Alice, you'll see he has a whole world over there. Sandy Petersen, my Lord, go look at the Cthulhu stuff that he's done. My Lord, the video board game for Cthulhu for Green-eyed games is — I think their Kickstarter raised $2.2 million.

Erik: Well, that's something, the whole id software thing kind of blossomed, right? It was you had so much concentrated talent that early on in that area of gaming—

Smitty: But we didn't know it, right?

Erik: No, but it just sort of blossomed.

Smitty: Yeah. I mean, these were a lot of crazy guys from Shreveport, Louisiana. Some dudes from other parts of here out in the Eastern suburb of Dallas and all the rumors about how id started. There was a 24-hour pizza party over there, and that part of that's true, but then don't ever forget the original Quake, who did the soundtrack? Oh, that's right, Trent Reznor. Nine Inch Nails. Very early on, this game represented much more than just a really great FPS. It was emerging a lot of different ideas of what interactive entertainment could be and would be, and this is 1996 if anyone wants to look it up. I think it came out summer of 1996.

Erik: The timing with technology too, because that game couldn't have been made a couple of years earlier to be what it was.

Smitty: No, OpenGL, all that video acceleration—

Erik: Yeah, it landed... Think of what 3D effects was doing at the time with their new cards coming out. I mean, if you played that game with those cards, you saw something on the screen that you'd never seen before ever.

Smitty: Well, the great part about being a part of this, here it goes back to me. I know you always love how I point out talking about me, but my dad hates me. It's that my experience was, we were all figuring it out in the real time because the hardware couldn't keep up with the software that we were making, and so John Carmack's game engine, the guy I worked for, Mark Randall over at Terminal Reality, his game engine, these guys were literally cutting edge. They were using quaternion math formulas to do cloth simulations, things that you just are like, "What? I don't even know how to spell what you just said." They were pushing the limits of all the hardware to such a degree. I would say every other week we had someone from some hardware company or Dell or AMD or someone like that in our house. The guys from Alienware, Frank when he was starting Alienware before it was ever owned by Dell, hello. They all were saying, "Show us what you're doing and we're going to try to make some hardware to help you do what you need it to."

You had for, probably still exists a lot to this day, but for a moment in time that hardware had to progress so rapidly because of all this great software coming out led by games like Quake, Quake II, stuff like that. The good news is all those hardware manufacturers were literally in the houses of each one of these developers watching, listening, getting alpha code, getting beta code and doing hot, literally soldering stuff down in the lab and sending it by FedEx. Like, "There's one of these cards ever exist. Tell us if it works. If it does, we'll go into a form of production." It wasn't just like that, but something like that because it was happening so fast. The cool thing, man, is video games really drove so much of what we've got in the way of HD video, high speed data transfer over networks. It's not prawn that built the internet, it's multiplayer gaming. It really is. Anyway, I get excited and all that came right out here, Dallas, Texas, baby.

Erik: Well, and all that stuff it happened during just this bubble in time because computing had become, let's say early mature. It wasn't quite what it is today, but it definitely had passed its infancy. We had the capability to do things like display, finally, millions of colors on the screen and to actually turn polygons around on the screen and do things that prior to that, mid 90s, were far more difficult. What the end result of that was when you had such creative minds, these folks that were talking about coming together by, somewhat by luck, making that happen at that exact moment in time with the mentality they had and the passion they had for that creation spawned what we now know as the modern FPS, right? They wouldn't be around if it wasn't for these games.

Smitty: Well, nope. Nope, not at all. Then anybody who loves id or Quake is familiar with an annual thing, happens here in Dallas called QuakeCon. This used to be a BYOC, which means bring your own computer. They still have a big, huge BYOC and people come in every single year, fly in from all over the world with a tower computer underneath their arm, their computer, their keyboard, and you play Quake against each other. It is a death match and it's winner take all. Back in the day before all that was really a thing, we had the CPL, the cyber athlete professional league that was started to host tournaments for Capture the Flag and stuff like that, for Quake and that were Quake II. That was about 1997, 1998, right around there, so that was still where we didn't have very fast internet even. A lot of these were land-based competitions. These weren't sit at home and play on your computer, you had to physically bring, and then they had this LAN. They had a fast, fast, fast connection all of a sudden.

Erik: Yeah. You remember when you first got your first 100 M.E.G card for the network? Holy crap.

Smitty: When you had 100, and then I had an IT guy who wouldn't limit me. He'd be like, "Yeah, you can..." If you ever could get full speed at the office where we have a T3, I think at the time.

Erik: Oh my god, it was amazing, yeah.

Smitty: Geez. There was a lot... This whole thing with the evolution of not just first person shooters but first person shooters as a community building a tool, if you will, it does bring people together even though we're killing each other.

Erik: Yeah, but it's so much fun, man because you'd have those somewhat instant response somewhere else on the map and you'd go out and do it again depending on where you'd set up.

Smitty: Unless an asshole like me knew where those spawn points were—

Erik: You just camped on them. Are you a spawn camper? You're a filthy spawn camper, aren't you?

Smitty: No, wasn't me, but if you hear a rail gun, it's probably me.

Erik: No, I was a fan of the rocket launcher to be honest.

Smitty: Absolutely. Then the jump—

Erik: Oh my gosh, that was so much fun.

Smitty: To master that jump that with the rocket launcher, that was—

Erik: That was great.

Smitty: If you could do that, you were one of the best Quake players out there.

Erik: Oh yeah.

Smitty: It was so fun, but who would have ever thought the industry that got launched out of that, because I think if id had, and I wasn't at id. I could call Michael Wilson and ask him back when he was doing marketing for these games, but inside of id after he left a little company called Dwango. If anybody ever wants to go way back, go look at Dwango, D-W-A-N-G-O and I'll show you the beginning of a lot of others that we're talking about here, but id community building through multiplayer gaming is an industry that built itself, right? I think that's the greatest thing about Quake is, it allows you to refine your skills. I think we referred to this in previous conversations and we can talk about it again later with sports being canceled like NBA, NFL, WNBA, stuff like that. You can absolutely hone your skills by practice, practice, practice in first person shooter more than you can in any other competitive sport, necessarily, figuratively speaking. It was just really neat to see that a game like this spawned an entire new industry, not by itself, but it was a heavy contributor.

Erik: Think of what came out of all of that from a gaming evolution. If you like these games and you play FPS games, look at all the highlights that have come afterwards and you think of Halo, right? Halo is massive franchise, wouldn't exist if it wasn't for this. Call of Duty, which I know you're a big fan of, wouldn't exist if it wasn't for this and how many countless others spawned because of the capability and the early games like Quake, like Doom, that type of thing.

Smitty: I have a point. I mean, the answer is 732, if you asked how many is it. I'm just kidding, I don't know.

Erik: That seems very exact. I don't know how you got to that.

Smitty: Well, it's leap year. To answer part of your question though, a lot of them looked similar because they use the Quake engine to build their entire game around because once someone like id, that's where id made their true money was engine licensing. You go look at somewhere like Fortnite, well that's Epic and they have a little game engine called Unreal that actually runs and you can—

Erik: Also an amazing engine.

Smitty: Incredible engine.

Dan: I've seen so many games based on that engine.

Erik: It's unreal how many of them.

 

[BREAK]

 

Smitty: The thing about the Quake engine was they had perfected something that as soon as it was perfected, the way of how many textures could be displayed on the screen, whatever. How fat your frame rates were, your connection, all of these little things that I'm using 5,000 foot view kind of words here, but when you're just putting all that stuff together into a video game that, out of the box, for X amount of dollars, you've got this whole new experience of multiplayer gaming being able to accomplish that frees you to... If you have that engine, you can just start designing the most amazing game around that engine. You no longer have to worry about how are people going to multi-play, be doing during death match? How many pixels can I have on the screen? How many textures can we have, dah, dah, dah. Lot of that's already decided for you and someone else is making it better while you're making a better game. There was a whole other idea of finally people were perfecting graphics engines, game engines that allowed for a lot of other development to just be pure creativity. They no longer had to...

Erik: I got to tell you, I love the idea of people embracing that from not just another company standpoint because this wasn't something that just developers did. There's an entire community built on modding those types of games.

Smitty: Amen. Ritual entertainment.

Erik: You're going to get into an entirely different subset of games and some of these, they're famous on their own. They became their own product and grew into something of their franchise.

Smitty: Then because they modded a great... They had a great Quake Mod that sold well, then they were able to finance First-party game that they were able to get financed by a publisher or something and they actually became another company. Look at how many companies formed just by people leaving id software.

Erik: Yeah, 732.

Smitty: At one point, I'm going to say yeah, because in the late 90s, it really was the wild, wild west for video game publishing. Developers, they would actively steal people. You would have people from GT Interactive, who was the publisher for Quake, that would go right and meet with say John Carmack, and this is all hypothetical makeup stuff here, but say they go meet with him, then they have already sent emails to five other guys at that company saying, "Hey, I'm in town. Meet me at this restaurant tonight at 7:00. It'd be good to hang out with you." Then they just look at him and say, "Yeah, have you ever thought about leaving? We could start a new company and we've got this property that we like."

Man, that happened all day long. You saw great companies who developed something amazing, quickly become 10 or 12 companies, and then bam, you had 100 companies. Then all of a sudden you had 10 companies again. You know what I'm saying? It didn't last long, but man, you watched it. You watch the sharks come in to Dallas, Texas at least and we had Ensemble Studios, Age of Empires, Terminal Reality. We were both Microsoft developers. You had id software. You had people like Ritual Entertainment popping up. I mean, we had talent here like crazy... Oh, 3D Realms and Apogee doing Halo, and so the talent that was here was just so undeniable. I always blame John Carmack's Ferraris for breaking up a lot of companies because we were like, "Well, Carmack's got a Ferrari. I should have one too."

Erik: Do what he does, and then maybe.

Smitty: Amen, brother. Carmack is a genius, and Carmack, by the way we're talking about John Carmack. I knew him on a couple different levels. He also was such a smart guy. His wife Catherine, they have a beautiful family, but he had a company, I think it's still in existence called Armadillo Aerospace and it was out on the east side of Rockwall by this old municipal airport. He was making engines. He was making propulsion systems for a particular company that was sending astronauts to the space station, so he was coming up with rocket engines, and I ended up working with—

Erik: Wait, give me that sound again.

Smitty: I can't. I'm not a Foley artist, but I worked with them on a thing called Rocket Racing League, where we were making a video game called Rocket Racing League, but there was a real world Rocket Racing League where we had delta-wing aircraft that had a rocket engines and they're driven by a real pilot. It had this, I won't get into whole thing about Rocket Racing League, but so interesting. John Carmack's Armadillo Aerospace was actually providing the propulsion systems and these were liquid oxygen, big balls of liquid oxygen back-filled with heated methane, so there was no moving parts, and so these were big giant flying bombs. I mean, go look up how flammable liquid oxygen is, but what he was also doing is we were testing these on earth with this kind of a NASCAR style racing organization called Rocket Racing League, but the test that he was doing was for no moving parts.

These could be used without very many options for failure to be engines to propulsion systems to lift machine and send it into space. Carmack's mind and some of the people around there, I'm just telling you, we'd go so far beyond video games, so far beyond video games, but it couldn't have happened without the money from the fans and the publishers and everybody who got crazy about these games and made them famous. It's, once again, Quake and this whole thing. None of these games would be anything if it wasn't for the fans that continually shelled out the dollars, that played the game for hours and hours and hours and hours, that did all the BYOC tournaments and the competitions. It's truly something great got created with Quake, but the fan base behind Quake is what made it great.

Erik: I mean, I can tell you, I ended up spending probably thousands of hours in total playing Quake and its sequels.

Smitty: I logged what, two hours plus a night playing Warzone right now with other guys who are game publishers. Some of these guys don't play games like, let's say Nigel over at Devolver Digital and JR. I'll be playing Warzone with them and Nigel has no time to really be playing games at all or doing anything fun because he's got to make fun games for a living. What they do at Devolver and how much Nigel does over there is incredible. Yes, kiss, kiss, Nigel, I love you and I respect you, but Nigel too is infatuated by Warzone, but all of us have found... Just today, just today, I had a phone meeting with JR and we have a scheduled meeting today and I said, "Hey man, can we do it an hour later? Blah, blah, blah." He goes, "Yeah, let's just do it in Warzone." I thought he was kidding, but I realized most of our important stuff we'd already covered the previous day, so we literally had a meeting while playing Warzone today talking about work. Once again, it's just one of those things that multiplayer gaming you can make them anything you want.

 

[BREAK]

 

Erik: We talked so much about the old games. One of the cool things about how I've dug into the old library of these games and what I've found is people have found ways to take the WAD files, the actual game content files from the old Doom and those types of games and they build a brand new engine. That got me thinking a lot about remakes of games, how people are taking the old properties and just redoing them under today's graphics and being able to modernize them on a new system.

One of the most recent ones that has just come out had to do with Final Fantasy. Huge franchise, obviously Square, bringing Square Enix now. I'm so used to calling them Square because their original name is Square Soft, right? From way back in the day, but you take a property like Final Fantasy and you take one of the most successful of all time, Final Fantasy 7. You look at the graphics now, and we talked about the PlayStation classic before having that and even if you grab that and you plug it into your computer, you see how dated those graphics are.

Dan: At the time, they blew me away. When it first shifts from the kind of the regular view of the pixelated characters to that video, when you see the city and you're going through the city and everything, that was mind blowing at the time. That was one of the first games I ever played on the first PlayStation and it was so good and I just got lost in that world for months really. I mean, there's only so many hours of gameplay there.

Smitty: Cinematics became a whole new thing. Developers started hiring people that were specialized in just cinematics. They didn't do anything else on the game. They didn't do any art in the game. They were just cinematics guys.

Dan: It's all about the cut scenes, the different storytelling elements to happen between the levels or whatever.

Erik: The game company hired writers for these things, and you didn't have writers back in the day?

Smitty: No. I mean, you've seen Hollywood try to come in on multiple occasions. One of our titles, one of the... We did Max Payne and Max Payne was actually sold off to movie studio and had become a movie and—

Dan: Who's in that again?

Erik: I can't remember.

Smitty: Mark Walberg.

Dan: Was it Mark Walberg?

Smitty: Yeah, it was Mark Walberg. Mark Walberg, if I'm not mistaken, was the majority owner or producer or something. He has money in it for some reason, but the game took five years to come out by the way. It had a lot of technological advances and whatnot, but the storyline and then the way that it had this kind of film war type element to it and the way that they use this cartoon graphical presentation in the marketing, so it had a real aesthetic, big aesthetic, but Hollywood's never been able to take a video game really and make it better. They can only rip off how cool the game was and try to make it a cool movie. I have never seen Hollywood take a video game franchise and make it better.

Erik: No, but you can certainly see how video game companies are looking back on these older properties and saying, "How can we take that classic and make that better? How can we do it as a video game?" That's essentially what Final Fantasy 7's remake is trying to do. They've completely overhauled the visuals now real 3D graphics instead of this kind of pseudo 3D where they had painted backgrounds and what not. They're doing everything in 3D and you're getting deeper into the story, but you're talking about these elements, these things that existed in a game like that when they started to do cinematics and started to have writers and started to have all these story artists that would come in. I think that gave an opportunity for a classic like that to be kind of ingrained into gaming society, and then now you go back and you say, "Oh, well, why wouldn't we remake that? It did so well back then. Imagine what we could make it look like now."

Smitty: Well, to any of those people wanting to make a new game, you just let me know. Give us a call. My email is saulgoodman@...

Erik: Remakes aren't new. Remakes have been around for a very long time and I was looking at some of the old games, not just on console, but on PC. There was a lot of remakes when VGA graphics started happening. You would see a lot of the older, that came out in CGA and EGA, get a complete overhaul for VGA and they would just redo the entire game in VGA because now you could actually have higher color counts and more pixels on the screen, higher resolution. Think King's Quest, the early King's Quest. I want to say it was four or three or something like that ended getting a remake in VGA and there's multiple examples of that happening.

Dan: Just to be clear, a video game remake is not necessarily the same as a Hollywood remake. When they remake a movie, they're kind of telling the same story in a different way. A video game remake is primarily involved with just updating the graphics and the playability. It's just a better looking game than it used to be. Just more in line of what today's graphics are like.

Erik: You'll still see examples where they will make some of those other improvements. It's just not on the grand scale usually. It's not like we're changing the characters and cast—

Dan: You're not starting from scratch, right? You're not—

Erik: No, no. You're taking a lot of the basic elements and just updating them, revamping them, new visuals, new sound. Still kind of the same general play.

Smitty: Well, believe it or not, back in the day when we would want to put out a game in United States, we had what NTSC format for our TVs and Europe they had PAL, P-A-L. There was very much a European version of the physical games that we sold because there was NTSC versus PAL that came in a lot on the cinematics and other things that would come into the game, so things wouldn't display properly. You couldn't show games. You couldn't even play a game on your TV certain times or maybe not TV, but on your CRT monitor for your PC, which was a TV. Let's just be honest with it. My eyes are so bad now. It has to be because I spent how many freaking hours staring at basically a flashlight shining in my face.

Erik: Pretty much.

Smitty: I mean, that's what an old CRT is. Don't you remember? We used to play so many games and we turn off all the lights in our office, right? Our eyes would hurt so bad and—

Dan: Because you had this glowing tube.

Smitty: Yeah, but we bought this thing that was a tube light that sat on top of your CRT monitor and shot a light right down in front of the screen. It was about one inch, off of your screen, but it shot a light down in front of your screen and it helped soften that your eyes were adjusting to that light and then the light behind it or some kind of weird sciency crap and so all of us started buying these little lights shined down in front of our monitor, so our monitors didn't hurt our face because we were playing Quake in the complete darkness, you know what I mean

Erik: For hours and hours and hours at a time. Yeah.

Smitty: Yeah, there's a lot of different reasons for remakes and you always hear, you see movies remade different ways because they can do more cinematics. A lot of times they just ruined the dang movie. Like Clash of the Titans, Clash of the Titans that I grew up with, with the bad Claymation and stuff and the Kraken.

Dan: It was good at the time.

Smitty: Not just good, great. When those spiders, you remember? Those crazy like, Oh, I can't remember who it was when they, they poked the Medusa's head and blood dripped out and giant scorpions came up out of the, and started battling Perseus and whatnot. Oh, my Lord, that scared the bejesus out of me. I never ever got that same feeling watching any of the current versions because it was like the fun of that movie was that, I knew it wasn't real, but my mind did the rest of the connecting for me. That's where I think that video games have been just such an overwhelmingly wonderful example of entertainment is because man, they're so immersive.

Erik: Even some of the older remakes of things that are not like that were great because at the time, the technical jump, being able to do more better graphics and better sound and that type of thing. Think about what Super Mario Brothers, the original Super Mario Brothers was like the first time you played that. Then when you saw Super Mario All@Stars, which came out on the Super Nintendento, which is only one generation away from where that was originally released, all the new colors and the new look. The game play was exactly the same, but so many people were hyped up to be able to get something like that and play that new version of it. They'd played the game hundreds of times previously, but it didn't matter because they had a place in their heart for this game and now to see it with these updated graphics and do amazing visuals compared to the original, was just great.

Smitty: Well, I always would love to get responses from people that, the three or four people that listen to this. Hi mom, how are you doing? Or hi dad, I don't know. I would like to put out a plea, please someone make a new SimCity. SimCity, come on.

Dan: Oh SimCity. You're talking about a remake of the original SimCity?

Smitty: Well, yeah. I mean, I want... I'd love a new SimCity. The style of the original one. I don't need a bunch of crazy funky graphics, just SimCity.

Dan: It was SimCity 2000.

Smitty: That was it.

Erik: 2000, 3000. They had all the off shoots, SimEarth, SimAnt, The Sims.

Smitty: Once again, not the same. No, it's just there's something perfect about the first one. 

Erik: I think the first couple of SimCity, SimCity 2000. Yeah, those were a great, sweet spot for that. I don't know that I would call what they did after a remake. It really was kind of a sequel, but I think you're right. I think a remake of something around that earlier version would be great.

Smitty: It's just the logic of how it works. How things are zoned and the pacing of the game and what's available and stuff. Some of that was held back by graphics cards and what you could display on the screen and stuff, so there's a lot of things you can do. Imagine though, if you did a SimCity, let's just say with 8K. An 8K SimCity, same game just 8K graphics. That would be...I'd buy that for sure. I don't even have an 8K TV and I would buy that or an 8K monitor and I would buy that.

Erik: Yeah, taking that same concept of the original game with the same mechanics and then just splashing it up with all the new sound new look, boy that would be really cool.

Dan: I would love to see them make, I've been playing the PlayStation... I was telling Erik before we started recording, I got myself a PlayStation Classic and then playing some of the games on there and I think they should remake Metal Gear Solid, the original Metal Gear Solid. It's a great game. I'm having a lot of fun playing, but man those graphics are dated. It looks really blocky, really pixley and I'd love to see that updated with more modern visuals and possibly some rerecorded dialogue. Some of that stuff does not hold up. Snake's pretty flirty with all those girls he's talking to on that call—

Erik: He may need a little adjustment in today's social climate, right?

Dan: I just don't think it's too appropriate for him to be hitting on everybody the way he does.

Erik: I do think though that it would be great to hear from some of the fans that listen to the podcast to say to us, what remakes they would like to see. Do me a favor, email me. Email erik@specialreservegames.com and—

Smitty: Spell it.

Erik: Spell it? I don't know how to spell.

Smitty: E-R-I-K, it's a different spelling.

Erik: You are right because I don't spell it the right way according to Smitty. It's erik@specialreservegames.com, I'm not going to spell all that, specialreservegames.com, but email me. Tell me what games you want to see remade and if you do, we'll say you get a chance at maybe winning a little something.

Dan: Oh, can I put one more thing out there? We also have the ability to take voicemail through this anchor through the platform that we're podcasting on. If you look at the show notes at the very bottom of the show notes, there's a little link that allows you to record a voice message for us, so you can go ahead and do that just on your phone or wherever you're listening to the podcast and that we can actually incorporate those into the podcast later on.

Erik: Yeah, we might actually play your voicemail back here, but I think if people reach out and kind of tell us what they want to be remade, maybe we'll enter you into a little contest here. Smitty, what do you think?

Smitty: No.

Erik: Okay.

Smitty: That sounds fun.

Dan: Well, what are we giving away?

Smitty: Yeah, we have all kinds of things. Sometimes physical goodies because it's Special Reserve Games or we have some digital codes or maybe we could just get Erik to record your voicemail for your cellphone with his rich deep beautiful voice.

Erik: That's right. You have reached the voicemail of producer Dan. He's not available right now, so please leave a message at the tone.

Dan: Oh, I can use that now for my voicemail. Thank you.

Erik: I know, you're welcome.

Smitty: Well, here, I'll do one for you. Hey, I'm sorry you've reached Bing Bing Bong and he's not available. Please leave a message. You see, nothing's wrong with that.

Erik: Remixer, remixer's so much fun. I love looking back at some of the classic ones that I've played and really, I get interested every time I see somebody announce one. What they're deciding to redo. Sometimes you kind of go, "Oh, you're remaking that, really." I guess there's an audience.

Smitty: Especially if you had anybody from the original development team or the script writing team, there's nothing like character development visually and then from storylines and just going back to Quake, Adrian Carmack that his pen, his pencil that drew hell in Doom. Anytime, a lot of real fans would see a character, concept art or in game art, they'd be like, "Carmack." They'd know exactly it was Adrian Carmack, and then there's just no way of recreating that. He's a standalone artist and his pen draws like nobody else, so would you try to make Quake III. By the way, I saw a funny picture of Romero, being forced, "Forced to sign a copy of Quake III" which of course he was not involved with.

Erik: I saw this.

Smitty: He signed it, right? He said, "I did not make this, John Romero."

Erik: What a wonderful idea to be able to take that and just think of that on the spot.

Smitty: Hey, I'll tell you, just to go way off the side, but there's a friend of mine here in Dallas named Jeff and he had, he still does this, but I'm not quite sure how extensively he does it now, but for quite a while he had albums of all kinds of people. When he would meet other famous people, he was a concert promoter and he worked in the music business a lot. He was an artist himself, but he would have like Donny, what's his name, the sister, Donny.

Dan: Donny Osmond.

Smitty: Donny Osmond, sorry. Jeff would get Donny Osmond to sign N.W.A Straight Outta Compton. He would carry these vinyl records around and he would do it specifically. He had a thing like he would get so and so to sign that album. He has a whole collection of vinyl albums signed by other famous people who are very contrasty to the actual artists that are signing.

Erik: And had nothing to do with the original production?

Smitty: No, no, not at all. Not at all.

Erik: That's great.

Smitty: It's just, it was just one of those little, so in and of itself, he was creating art. Anyway, I don't know why I brought that up.

Erik: No, that's great.

Smitty: Yeah. It was just kind of one of those strange things. Individual artists, that video games launched, their art is preserved all the time in a digital format forever and ever. It never fades, the colors are the same, but with 8K, 4K they just look better, right?

Erik: That's right.

Smitty: Do you think your game can be remade to look better, great. If you're trying to, you can rarely go back and capture the magic and the excitement that was around your game when it came out the first time, just because it's a moment in time. Like we're talking about Quake. It's 1996. I think about what else I was doing while I was playing Quake. I worked here, I worked there. I dated this person, I was broke, whatever. It brings back all kinds of memories. I think it's fun just like a good record or a good movie, a great game.

Erik: I agree. I think there's just some magic behind that and you're right. Trying to recapture that moment in time it's going to be extremely difficult.

Dan: People are very excited about the Final Fantasy remake. I saw people playing it and posting screenshots and videos of them playing it. A lot of people are feeling very, very nostalgic for that game and are playing the new version of it now just to kind of take a trip back.

Erik: Yeah. It seems to be received really well, which is great. Good for Square Enix to be able to put something out like that.

Dan: Absolutely.

 

[BREAK]

 

Erik: I was thinking about a lot of what we're doing lately just within Special Reserve. I don't know if you want to talk about this Smitty, but I kind of think it would be a neat idea to give some people a little bit of a window into maybe, some of the interesting difficulties that can come up when you're trying to put together a release. Just some of the behind the scenes, the challenges, because I think one of the advantages we can have on here is maybe share, carefully, some of the roadblocks that we have to overcome that may be your average person doesn't know about.

Smitty: No sleep.

Erik: Boy, is that true?

Smitty: This is the guy with no sleep. Well, my biggest hurdle in publishing physical games nowadays is trying to honor the game in a physical form and doing it correct because a digital game can get uploaded and updated in a second, nowadays. That also goes with the code, so as far as needing patches or if there's any DLC like additional content. My initial hurdles are picking a game that we can make physically, for a variety of technological reasons or just interest level and then making sure that it's pristine, so that if we put out a physical game, it doesn't require a bunch of updates or patches or any to be... Those are some weird hurdles that probably nobody really thinks about that I go through before we even know what we have, how valuable this thing would be. Is it worth putting out physically because it's a physical cartridge, but someone's going to have to download 10 patches over the next 10 months to keep it? There's a lot of different things that we look into. That's just the one strained hurdle.

Dan: That's what they used to have to do. They didn't release a video game until it was ready. They couldn't release a video game with bugs. Although they did, I'm sure many companies did. Nintendo, they made sure it was perfect before they—

Smitty: Well, and I'll tell you that for someone that was in, we had crunch time and it was just ungodly. Leading up to E3 or something that was a big show. We had to get a playable version because we had to give live press demos to live press people that were going to come and give us a live preview, not a review but a preview and hype our game while we were still making it when it was still in the alpha. A lot of us didn't even have betas. By the time you were beta, you were almost basically done here. You are going to have gold master candidates coming out. We used to burn those to CD or DVD, mail them off and then they would do bug testing up at Microsoft or whatever, and then tell us what we did wrong.

When we ever went gold master and used to finish a game, we sent it off and then it had to go out to manufacturing and then go to distribution and go to big box retail. We would finish a game, let's just say 90 days before you ever would dream of it actually being shipped to a store, three months. Imagine how much stuff you find wrong with your own game after you shipped the gold master and everyone starts playing it around your office and just be like, "Hey, look, Oh my gosh, we misspelled Quake. Oh my God, what do we do?" No way to fix it. No way to fix it without putting out a patch.

Erik: It's already too late at that point.

Smitty: It's already gone.

Erik: That's the beauty of where we're at now, right? We don't have to get that far out anymore.

Smitty: Not me. You know what I mean? On our physical game, if—

Erik: I know.

Smitty: If anyone cares to know, if you had a digital game, let's say like Hotline Miami collection. Hotline Miami collection is available right now in the eShop for Nintendo. You can download it right now. It's amazing, but for me to actually get it to load from a cartridge, it actually has to go through a whole new round of testing, quality assurance testing and it usually requires a porting house. It's same game, different file type if you will. It's got a little transport device that gets it off that cartridge into your little device. It's no longer just a digital download. We have to create an installer, if you will or make it. Then we also, the games have to load in a certain amount of time or your code is bad and Nintendo or Sony or anybody would reject it. If you can't make your game load within a certain number of seconds or milliseconds even from a cartridge, that's one of the biggest things that the Nintendo come back and say, "Nah, sorry. Your game's great. It plays completely well on the platform, but you can't get it to install fast enough."

Erik: That's essentially putting you back at square one kind of thing, so you have to go back to the beginning.

Smitty: Little teeny tiny things that stop the whole train in its tracks and so this—

Erik: None of that is even considering some of the stuff you have to do after you've got approvals.

Smitty: Actually, that's the easy part.

Erik: Yeah.

Smitty: You know what I'm saying? That's the easy part, man.

Erik: Well, and I don't want to go too far into it, but we could probably spend a half an hour on getting approval from a ratings board.

Smitty: Whoa. Well, like ESRB, that's usually a 10 day minimum turn, just even get a rating back.

Erik: Haven't these games already been rated?

Smitty: No.

Erik: That's an interesting thing when you have an electronic release versus when you have a physical release. Now we have to start the process over. Really?

Dan: Oh, it's real weird.

Smitty: I think go all the way back to the origins of PMRC and how they used to write albums. All this was done for the retailers, physical retailers. When I first started, especially Reserve Games, we did not have to put any kind of rating. In America, it's the ESRB, and so the inner, I don't even remember the anagram, what it stands for, but Entertainment Software Rating Board, something like that.

Dan: That's right.

Smitty: Anyway, ESRB and excuse me, so we didn't have to put ESRB ratings or any kind of legal ease on our boxes at all because we were direct to consumer, and so we were doing several things. We were doing an age verification and you have to verify your identity because you're purchasing it online. You're paying with a credit card or PayPal, so at one point or two points we were making people verify, yes I am who I say I am. You had to be over 18 to buy it. We were already doing it if there was a mature game. That's what the ESRB was set in place. It was to protect the virgin eyes of young children who wandered into a store and had $60 and was going to buy a game and take it home and play it without their parents knowing.

Erik: Mommy, Mommy, there's a raygun on the cover.

Dan: As a former Blockbuster employee, we used to abide by these ratings at Blockbuster, same as we would for movie ratings. The parents would come in with the kids, the parents would be there and they'd be renting Grand Theft Auto or something. Remember, oh what was the game where you hunt, Manhunt or something.

Smitty: They didn't know. The parents didn't know.

Dan: They didn't know and I'm like, "Are you sure they can play this game?" The parents like, "Oh yeah. Yeah, sure, whatever."

Smitty: It's mature rated.

Dan: It's got gore, it's got swearing. It's got all these things. They had no idea that these games, that it's a video game. How could it be like this?

Smitty: Do you remember, there is a rating that was 17 plus and that they tried out, I think for a while and then they went A for adult. Yeah.

Erik: Yeah, that still exists. That still exists. AO.

Smitty: Yeah, AO Adults Only. People don't know what that means and that's the craziest thing is the Motion Picture Rating Association is, or something like that.

Dan: MPAA.

Smitty: MPAA, yeah. The R, PG, PG13, in all honesty, that's exactly how they should have rated the games because nobody knows what the difference between T for T and M mature is and then AO, what is that? Okay. That sounds A-okay. I guess so, yeah.

Erik: Right, yeah. You ain't kidding. You ain't kidding. I mean, the whole idea behind having to even go through that process though means that even after you've got a bunch of other things done, you've got to pass it through this separate entity, completely different from the platform that you're putting out on that has nothing to do with Sony, that has nothing to do with Nintendo. It's a totally separate board that has to give its stamp of approval.

Smitty: They can shut you down and they stop it all in the tracks and they will alter my artwork that I can do on my packaging because their logo, Nintendo's logo or on this templated packaging, which I totally understand, but that gore and of course avert sexuality or any kind of stuff like that we wouldn't be doing, but the use of blood. We often discuss how I can and can't use blood. How much blood? Blood on what? Blood on there? Blood on here? Well, if the blood was on here, but not on there.

Erik: It comes down to like, why is this there? Sometimes it's such a strange beast.

Smitty: There's a very significant process into rating these games, and so I mean this isn't telling any industry secrets here. When you get a game rated, you have to take the script, what we call the localization kit or the loc kit. Every single piece of text that is spoken or displayed in any language on the screen, could be UI instructions. It could be loading screens, it could be texts that was used in cinematics and cut scenes. Anywhere there's words spoken or seen and if there is music that have lyrics, we need the lyrics too. I have an entire script of the game, which is a gigantic document that has all kinds of strings that show where an incident has happened and things that are people are said. Number one, I have a script and I can find all the curse words and then I can find all the descriptions and something bad might happen or whatever.

Then I have to go and capture gameplay footage from the game showing each one of those instances. I have to do a time code stamp and show what that, and so I have a visual representation of where that instance occurred. Then I also have to document it in the submission form. Okay. At four minutes and 41 of the gameplay video, it shows how Erik was gambling, gets up, shoots a guy and says a curse word and this is the curse word. That is documented in such a way that just like that. I have to do that. I have to do that on my side and then they tell me if I did it good enough and then they give me the rating.

It's not like I just send them off all the assets and they come back and go, "We think you will get a T14 here you go." I have to do all the hard work and submit it to them and then trust me, they have machines that they've, robotic machines that will find all the things you didn't. This is all in the name of protecting people from being exposed to content that they don't want to see or shouldn't see or need to be saying. I get it, but for the most part, we're not sneaking in like a child molester video in here or something like that. We're just talking about blood on the screen, so I understand where we're doing a good thing by trying, but come on, man. I'm telling you, I mean, I love the guys at the SOP, but it's a hard, there are hard rules to live under when you're making a game about a creature that eats people's heads. You know what I'm saying? It's a really strange, hard balance.

Erik: Well, and honestly, with some of the games that we have, it's pretty obvious what's happening on the screen, so you can explain that, but then now think about how do I explain to the ESRB, why Mario is jumping on a turtle and what happens to the turtle when he dies and all that. You start to get into the really odd stuff and you have to explain these things. The interesting thing to me when Smitty and I've talked about the ESRB and the process and some of the setbacks that you can have that may be your just average game fan isn't aware of is just some of that legally, some of that minutia that they'll drill into and you got to turn around and go back and make revisions to what you've submitted and hope that you can resubmit it in this new form and that, that's not going to get shot down again.

Smitty: The whole thing about it is there are so many obstacles going back to how you were setting it up, how many hurdles are in the way, your obstacles, there's a lot. You can find all that you want to make sure that you don't accomplish anything, or you had to compromise your vision and all that, or you don't. If you really care about what you're doing and you really care about the end product and what you're going to put out and sell to people for money, then if you can figure out a way to make your vision still come through for the product you want to create and offer to the fans to preserve this digital art and honor this product and honor the fans, then that's where I can say that's my job, to do the hard work, to navigate all the minutia, to navigate all the weird legal crap and still bring a highly creative, wonderful product to manufacturing.

It's not like, "Woohwooh, let me toot my own horn." I'm not trying to do that as much as they're saying you have to have a couple of people who are willing to navigate all of this and maintain the creative vision of these different games or whatever to really do it right. You see a lot of compromises are made in the digital world. Digital downloads have great value, but man, turn the electricity off being all of a sudden, your store's closed. You're not selling games, but physical games, there they are, they live, they're on your shelf. They're just like a great book. Until you throw them out, you own them and there's just something wonderful and comforting about that as a human being.

To have a digital form of entertainment that requires a console, a TV, a computer or whatever to actually enjoy and play, but owning it physically, possessing it on your shelf, those kinds of things are just a part of the... They give you comfort, it's a fun feeling. It's beautiful art, it's collector, it's whatever. I think that's the reason that all these weird obstacles aren't really obstacles to me. I just consider it part of the job. I would say I could be digging ditches for a living. I'm glad I'm not. I've done dug mini ditches, I've done a lot of roofing, I've pulled a lot of nails out of two by fours, I don't like that. I like sitting inside making really cool video games. None of these are obstacles, I can't use any of them as excuses. They're all just creative challenges.

Erik: I think that's just it, is that when you end up with a company that is dedicated like you are, like we are to putting something like that in the hands of a fan that at the same time honors what the developer, the original developers of that game did and you see the end result. You see the love that's put into this, that right there kind of shows why that struggle is real, but worth it, right? It's worth it.

Smitty: It goes back to the old thing. Games you deserves the name of the show and we think that you deserve games and games deserve you, but my whole career is built around entertainment and some facet because it's just what thankfully I've been able to make a few dollars doing, but as something that I love telling stories. I love telling stories to people, conveying a feeling and making people happy, if you can. Man, just video games, even though they're violent and they're crazy or whatever, they make people happy and communities around them are generally pretty upbeat. Even the competitive stuff, everyone's pretty nice and it's cool. It's just a great place to be and I'm just honored to still be available to anybody to do something cool in the industry because there's a lot of great talent out there. I have a lot of great games. We've got so many to talk about.

Erik: Yeah. You talk about how it's great to be a part of that story and I think that that's where today's chapter ends. Until next time, I am Erik.

Smitty: I'm Smitty.

Dan: I am Dan.

Erik: That is game over.