Full Motion Video games are like a 6 year olds school play, terrible but we are never allowed to say. Instead we smile politely and clap and say it was good. The heyday of FMV games was the early 90s when Sony released Johnny Mnemonic and became the first film studio to release a video game…back when the ‘video’ part of that meant just that.
Soon after Electronic Arts followed up with Mark Hamill in Wing Commander III (and IV). The 90s were awash with FMV games, Night Trap (1992), 7th Guest (1993), Phantasmagoria (1995). It was going to be the next big thing.
Full Motion Video never worked though.
The reality was very different from the hype. Usually offering limited gameplay and using second rate actors who couldn’t create a scene if they had a tantrum in a shopping mall. It was gamers who saw through the hype to realise they actually offered very little and the FMV game died along with punctuality, Fax machines and MC Hammers’ parachute pants at the end of the 90s.
So when ‘Not for Broadcast’ landed on my desk, I was less than excited.
A full motion video game with what looks like second rate actors in grainy rendered footage and cheap backdrops; where you play an trainee broadcast editor for a nightly news programme.
Look, it’s not that hard. Choose the angles, roll the ads, and bleep the swears, but as the tutorial warns you, just keep in mind that how you show these people will change their lives…and maybe yours.
The controls are simple enough and you are introduced to them well in the first level broadcast and the game is outstanding. You begin a year in the job at the start of a new government taking power and one of your first edits is a statement from the winning party leaders.
Things become more sinister and your choices are more subtle as the game advances. For example, having picked up the skill of editing out swear words over a couple of broadcasts, you are then instructed by the station boss to bleep out overly critical statements of the government as well. So when a faux gangster rapper, who spends the entire interview lying and talking garbage, takes the stage for an unrehearsed song that criticises the government, what do you do? Do you edit out the swearing and the criticism or do you allow it and make this prick a hero or perhaps allowing it will get this prick arrested? The choice is yours.
Not for Broadcast consistently puts you in these difficult and subtle positions; asking if you will cooperate to keep your job because you need to to keep your family together? Or if seeing what is happening under this new regime and the impact that has on your family, will you try to undermine it?
The impact of your choices plays out in text based updates of family life between broadcasts and is tied to what is going on in the country.
This heavy theme of coming police state and your facilitation of it is juxtaposed with the actual broadcast material which is pure comedic gold. So much so, that I don’t much care about my family updates I want to get to the shows. There’s so much going on it’s glorious.
Not only are the jokes puerile in that we frequently deal with the leader of a multi-national company called Rymmington Svist and at one point interview an ex-con called Tit-Wank Tony who unleashes everything on a live interview we might have secretly wished for in our head, but the stories and presentation of each item is delightfully observed and presented.
We have to manage a god awful teenage drama presentation about bullying, a bizarre new sport that has an imaginary round and is invaded by streaking nude protesters, a new tv show for kids about farm animals boufing, one of those inexplicable letharios that seem to do and offer nothing and yet are nationally famous lying in bed hosting a quiz about himself, and so many more wonderful characters that offer delicious comment on society. It is glorious choosing what to do with them? Do you deliver the clean edit you are supposed to or do you broadcast the rants that are supposed to be off-screen? Do you present the message these terribly self-righteous people want to deliver or do you show the tired, eye rolls of the individuals forced to share an interview with them.
Do you cut the adverts short to expose your lead anchor slagging off the guests he is returning to interview or not? There are lots of choices here and all of them are recorded in your edit that went out to the nation that you can rewatch at anytime.
Not for Broadcast isn’t without some small problems though.
I had occasional crashes and had to restart levels and failure and loss of viewers means you are sacked and have to restart the level as well. This can be a bit tedious as we’re running a show here and there are often lengthy things to repeat, but these issues were very infrequent and are enormously outweighed by the sheer fun the game consistently delivers.
Not for Broadcast is still in Early Access and some people like to leave Early Access games alone until they have launched, but you really shouldn’t here. It’s entirely worth it even as it is, despite there being more updates in the pipeline.
Not Games just released one of those, a second large update made during the lockdown of the last 18 months, which has not hampered their style or commitment one bit as they simply introduced an hilarious lockdown of their own in the game, developing a storyline about teddies that come alive and hunt people down requiring society to hide in our homes.
This allows all sorts of observed fun of lockdown; people wearing pants only on the bottom half, fake backdrops and people pretending to be outside, people caught eating lunch and not ready for the camera to be on them and forgetting to switch it off.
The death-teddies eventually invade the studio and become another difficulty to deal with as does a passing storm that electrifies some of the buttons making them unusable. The game winds up the chaos continuously with each broadcast and never lets you stop laughing.
I tell you this is the best Full Motion Video game I have ever seen and is one of the best games of any type I’ve played all year. An hilarious ride with stacks of replayability.
Not for Broadcast is available for about $25 and is worth every penny in current form with more updates to come. My Friends…the revolution will be televised, just put me in charge of broadcasting it will you.
From the makers of the Matrix… no news yet, but I am in possession of an immortal chicken.
No it’s not a euphemism for something rude, these things do go together. They are a glimpse of the kind of knowing humour on offer in Breathedge. It catches you off guard as you watch the opening cinematic of you being dragged towards an interrogation by some robots made from coffins….you’ll find out later.
Somebody Cut My Cable
A few days after I was given this to review someone cut my internet cable and I had to go somewhere else to download, update (trying not to forget my external drive) and shift everything onto my laptop just to get the game open to run. I was starting to feel like I was in ‘The Game’ and that this was some sort of meta pre-level of scavenging to prove I was worthy of playing Breathedge.
Having crafted together the ability to play the game I did not dare switch it off in case I couldn’t get back and my guy was lost in space to die.
…and I still have no idea why I am in possession of an immortal chicken.
Breathedge is a space survival sandbox game where you are constantly seeking out materials from the wreckage of the space ship you crashed in, to survive and improve your situation. It inevitably involves crafting essential equipment and tools to allow you to progress and in this sense it is rather linear and fairly standard, especially in the early levels. You are given a set of tasks to complete largely in a pre-designed order and you are prevented (by distance and no knowledge of location) from accessing other areas until crafting progression allows.
This is in ‘standard’ mode which is the story mode. Here there really isn’t much of the base building that you might expect in a sandbox crafter, rather you use discovered bases. Breathedge does offer a variety of play options which level story and freedom against permadeath, unlocked achievements and base building.
Breathedge is, graphically, a downright beautiful game right from the get go. The premise is that you have survived an explosion of the largest spaceship in human history, which it transpires was a funerary ship (appropriate). You are on it delivering your fathers’ coffin when the explosion occurs and now you must survive.
Progress, like any sandbox crafter, is slow and contained at first, but opens up at a decent rate once you get past the first chapter. Your problems scale with progress as you move from simply surviving and getting home to uncovering and becoming embroiled in far bigger machinations as the game switches from a crafting exploration game to a more liner adventure game in its final few sections.
A common frustration of sandbox crafters is obtaining enough of the right resources. In Breathedge common sense developers have prevailed and resources divide into two categories.
Firstly the basics to survive, ice, various nutritional elements for crafting into food and various metal and chemicals for tools. These basics are in plentiful supply and often floating around freely…you won’t run out.
Secondly the other stuff, materials for crafting into bigger items (once you have discovered blueprints), plastic, copper wiring, rubber, paint, etc.
These things are found next to or attached to items of space debris. So there is some clarity about where to look for stuff you need and the in-game encyclopaedia offers visual clues on where to find them. This clarity means progression is always possible and never too far away.
About Time… Wasting
There are some gripes about unnecessary time wasting that falsely lengthens game time for no purpose and it is all over the place. Journey time is one particular complaint, it takes a long time to travel anywhere initially and repeatedly having to return to your base to refill oxygen on top of that is annoying. Planning and crafting to bridge what, early in the game, seems a vast distance and discover a new base takes a long time.
Once you get there and realise you need to return to transfer your phat stack of collected resources, over several journeys it is most definitely annoying. I mean having unlocked or completed an area, what is the point in making me travel 4 minutes back to my original base just to collect some resources
This is space and the future, (albeit a 1950s Soviet stylised one) so why, once I have securely moved on in the game or discovered more bases, can I not activate a fast travel system?
This needless wasting of time is present all over the place; you see it in the actual crafting, where every object created needs a 5 second wait for it to be built. If you are making several components that’s a wait of a couple of minutes for no reason at all.
Health & Beauty
Health is another example, it is restored by sleep, but you literally have to wait staring at a screen doing nothing but watch a spinning sand timer for a minute in order to recover your health. It serves no purpose except to waste time, at least until you get the medical box blueprint to craft instant healing.
It is for this reason that some major reviewers have been unkind to Breathedge, but I think they’ve got it wrong. You see any complaint about this artificial and imposed pointless game lengthening (which I think is a valid complaint) is dispelled shortly after completing chapter one.
Very quickly after this point you discover a second base and rapidly open up triple the length of time on oxygen, bigger spare tanks to carry and even discover a vacuum cleaner rocket bike and begin whizzing around at quadruple the speed like a sort of space Hagrid.
So, all of these complaints rapidly recede and the only annoyance that remains is the short wait time for crafting items, but that, by virtue of being the only one, becomes trifling as the game opens up into a vast multitude of tasks to complete and places to investigate; it isn’t as if I have to do a stupid three minute puzzle every time I want to buy items cheaper, (yes I mean you Bioshock) and if it doesn’t spoil that game I can assure you by chapter two crafting items won’t be bothering you here. Aside from that, developers are responsive to the community and a recent update has increased the oxygen and tool durability in the early stages to improve your experience.
Breathedge is a wonderous game of beauty, discovery and adventure. The college humour jars at times, but like the annoyances of the early stages this too dissipates and a more confident game emerges.
In Breathedge there is always something to keep you going and I have lost hours into the early morning on repeated nights playing this because I felt I was just about to crack a puzzle or felt I would just investigate that thing over there, just finish off this last part of the task and I will have made significant advancement. Every achievement in Breathedge feels significant and getting that feel and commitment from a player is a sign of a good game.
You’ll get about 30 plus hours out of Breathedge and the developers are planning two free expansions later this year. It isn’t a perfect game or consistent and in some ways that’s a good thing. So, if you can see past the jarring frustrations of the first chapter (somewhat now patched), you will be rewarded with a visually stunning adventure based largely on a solid crafting background. It’s worth your time and you will enjoy it.
I still don’t know why they give you an immortal chicken, but it’s good for shorting out flayed electrics on space debris. I wonder if that’s how my internet cable was cut…
No Man’s Sky has probably one of the most notorious launches for a new game of the last decade. Soaring on hype, the game failed to deliver on almost everything, leaving gamers crushed with buyer’s remorse.
Now, over four years after the initial release of the game (and several large, free updates), is it worth playing after all this time?
What’s the game like in 2021?
The core gameplay loop for No Man’s Sky is the same as many other survival/exploration-based games in the genre. You’re a person, in a world, and you harvest resources to build a base, upgrade your character to explore farther, and fight increasingly tougher enemies.
One of the biggest reasons why I could never truly get into Minecraft and its kin was exploration.
The different biomes were neat, but they didn’t make me inclined to stick around if I didn’t immediately find resources or points of interest. Especially for Minecraft’s sake, most of the game is spent underground anyway, making the change in biomes hardly noticeable.
With No Man’s Sky, you’re instead greeted with the same key resources on almost all planets. Some planets will not have these resources in abundance, which means you may have to stock up and come prepared for some planets.
These planets are completely procedurally generated, while they may still fall under similar biomes to other games, they end up being completely unique every time.
Between zooming from planet to planet, harvesting resources, and building bases across the galaxy, you’ve still got to explore space as well.
Space Stations serve as trading hubs between you and the local system’s economy, with different prices being offered depending on where you are. Here you’ll meet the three prominent races of the galaxy, learning their language to communicate, trading resources, unlocking new technology, and even buying better starships.
Environments That Leave You Breathless
Space – that is where the game truly shines in the graphics department.
Seeing these vibrant, colorful worlds in different systems and configurations often leaves you breathless. Systems with multiple stars, ringed planets like Saturn, even the sheer size and closeness of planets offer awe-inspiring views that can’t be replicated in other games.
However, survival games such as these always fall into the same issue: Is the core gameplay loop enough to keep you entertained?
Just like Minecraft, the core of the game resides around harvesting resources, exploring new places, maybe building a base, and then going to another planet and repeating this cycle. No Man’s Sky offers some breaks to this via space travel, missions, managing your fleet of ships as you travel system to system.
And The Bad News?
The game doesn’t come without any faults, however.
No Man’s Sky has a fairly unimpressive story, which isn’t unlike other games in the same genre. Games like these offer little in the plot department, and instead opt for players to forge their own stories through their experiences while playing and exploring the game.
Gameplay gets repetitive as well, especially if you have bad luck and end up seeing similar planets in each system you jump to – which really ruins immersion when you’ve seen six Acidic planets in your last three jumps. This may be a personal beef though, as I don’t intend to land on every planet I see as other players may.
My final gripe with the game is the lack of difficult combat. The primary “enemy” of the game, Sentinels, are pretty dumb enemies. They offer little challenge after a certain point, and just attack in endless waves if you don’t actively run and hide from them to drop your “wanted level”.
All in all, the game has little to offer for downsides if you are already a veteran of the genre. There may be some struggles in Multiplayer that I’m not aware of, as I have only played solo so far.
For me, I’ve never been more hooked in a game of this genre. I’ve already dumped over 70 hours into the game, including a 3 hour stream. The game continues to offer new free updates every few months, which keeps players like me anticipating what comes next.
Geod Studio is an army of one. Truc is the fiendishly clever developer behind what is considered the foremost 3D NES emulator. The twist? 3dSenVR is available in VR – which takes immersion to a whole new level.
Available onSteamand Itch.io, 3dSenVR will ignite your retro fire, and take you back, while simultaneously keeping you in the future, as you jump, run, fight, fly and more in virtual reality.
We wanted to know how Truc came up with the concept, and how he managed such an incredible project on his own. Here is the interview. Links, videos and more information can be found at the end of this article.
Hey Truc! What an amazing project 3dSenVR is. We saw that you have been working on it since 2015. What gave you the idea back then?
Well NES console was my first ever gaming system and always have a really special place in my heart and my mind. Similar to many other children at my age, I had many imagination of how the game worlds look like in 3D. Fast forward to 2015 I was a developer working for an out-sourcing company. The job didn’t fit me well and I lost all the working motivation. The repetitive work [and bureaucracy] was really killing me; I really wanted to work on something original that I loved.
I started asking myself why I didn’t do something special [for myself]. That was when everything began, and as people often say the rest is history.
What got you started in game development originally?
It comes to me the most natural way possible. When I was a kid, I loved playing computer games like crazy and often skipped school to play/watch other kids playing. Since 4th class in 1989, I learned in a special school for pupils with special capability in math. They did also teach programming quite a bit because math and IT are close domains. But some of us are [only] interested in gaming not programming. When I grew up a bit we naturally shifted our interest from playing games to game creation. That was the time we decided to switch from math to IT. Classmates who didn’t like gaming followed the math path and we who love gaming followed the IT path. That’s my story : )
What was the first game you wanted to play through on 3dSenVR?
Super Mario Bros.
The interest in the emulator has been incredible, and you’ve shown you like to be close to the community. What’s the most requested feature that you have implemented/are planning to implement?
This is the support for the game Punch Out. I’m planning to add support for it at some point in the future. Imagine you control the character by throwing punches yourself… makes me really excited.
Punch Out is an absolute classic. Making it into a VR first person would just be incredible. Is this something you have developed in the past, or will this be 100% new to you?
I gave it a quick try in the past but quickly realized that’s not something easily solves while there are other games with equal interest from the audience which I can quickly solve and support. So I left it and will come back later at a point in the future with more skill and experience.
…and which game has proven to be most popular with retro gamers?
Super Mario Bros as you can guess. Everyone knows and loves it already so they want to try it first with 3dSen.
The project cleverly takes advantage of VR, but not in the traditional sense of a shooter, driving or other genre of VR game. Do you think the VR industry is going in the right direction, or is there not enough diversity?
Well we are still in the early stage of this current VR technology area (there were already some VR waves in the past). The tech still evolves fast and there are still many things to explore and imagine. I wouldn’t say right or wrong but I would say as of a VR enthusiasm it’s a very exciting time to be alive.
Have you been disappointed with Nintendo’s lack of VR development?
No I’m not disappointed at all. It seems to me that Nintendo philosophy is a little bit similar to Apple. They are never the revolutionists but most of the time they do provide the best and unique experience (all aspects around) to their loyal users.
How difficult was the overall development process – were there any bootstrap methods you could build on, or was it entirely from scratch?
The most difficulty I met in the overall development process is the mentality aspect. I have to constantly fight against myself and keep the motivation up. There is nothing like a bootstrap method cause there is no similar work like 3dSen in the past. I have to let my imagination fly then try to find a practical solution for it then repeat the process : ) That’s my methodology.
I see the project rather like an inner up-hill battle against myself.
Truc – Geod Studio
Was there ever a point where you thought you bit off more than you could chew – with such a massive retro gaming audience anticipating the launch?
Never. Big or not, it is how we evaluate our resource and how we limit the project scope to match it. It’s true that when I first showed my project to the public, there are some people liked it but there are also some people hated it and even talked shi@t about it. I was a little bit shocked at first but I quickly realized that no matter what I do there are always likers and haters.
So it’s all up to me. Am I capable of creating a solution for my vision, of polishing it, of finding the right audience without losing the motivation in this (very very long) process? I see the project rather like an inner up-hill battle against myself. So no, no outside pressure at all!
Was you shocked at the popularity of the project when first build was released for browsers back in 2016?
Yes I’m truly shocked, it’s covered by all big tech sites and people talked about it everywhere. For the up-coming launch not that much of a shock as you stated above: I interact quite closely with the community.
What were the biggest challenges you overcame?
Winning against myself to maintain the motivation. There are time continuously in several weeks I kept turning on my PC then read news after news the whole day until I was completely tired and fell asleep. Those are the hardest times when I lost all the motivation. Luckily I overcame it all in the end.
What are you most happy about with 3dSenVR?
I’m most happy and proud with the profile for DuckHunt game. From a 2D game it completely turns into a real 3D first person shooter game. This is 3D gameplay; I mean the ducks really fly in all 3 dimension and you can move and aim from whatever angle you want.
What advice would you give to any indie game developers that are inspired by the originality & concept of your work?
Well I was almost a loser and there is a big luck factor involving the moderate success of 3dSenVR release on Steam. So I don’t think i’m in the position to give advice to anyone : )
Do you have any plans for other development projects besides 3dSenVR?
Yes in my vision, once I’m done with NES I will probably move to another 8-bit console like GBA or Master System. 16 bits console graphics are way too complex so I prefer supporting another 8-bits system.
Thanks so much for the interview, Truc. It has been a pleasure talking to a true pioneer in VR development. Even better that you are an indie game developer who is unafraid of pushing boundaries. Truly inspirational!
Thank you for the selection. It’s really my honor!
3dSenVR – a multi-platform voxel based 3D NES emulator