Thursday, May 22, 2008

Great Moments In Gaming History #1: Daikatana

This advertisement ran in gaming magazines in mid 1997. It informed gamers in no uncertain terms that Alfonso John Romero was about to start doing unspeakably homoerotic things to their face. That, to be fair, is the sort of thing you'd want to be warned about.

John Romero gave us Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake. I think possibly he also invented democracy, ghostwrote for Tolstoy, and defeated Hitler in a kung-fu face-off. Like unto a god, he was known to periodically descend from gaming heaven and shower shotgun-themed bliss upon the huddled masses.

So when this paragon among men instructed you to "suck it down", you damn well weren't going to complain just because it made you feel violated and soiled inside.

Now, John Romero was not going to make you his bitch in any ordinary way. This is a man in whose veins runs machine code instead of blood. When Romero desires bitches, he generates a machine to make them. He builds a device, towering and unspeakable, whose gears are oiled with the blood of virgins. He called this device "Daikatana", and he set the hour of its unleashing as "Christmas 1997".

If the apocalypse had indeed occurred in 1997, and Daikatana's fell aura had crept snake-like across society, then things may have gone well for John Romero, and even now he would be lounging among piles of gold coins while his numerous bitches peeled for him the succulent grapes of Eden. But the game did not emerge in 1997. Neither did it come forth in 1998. In fact, it was not seen until 2000, when futuristic archaeologists unearthed it from within the mouldering coffin of John Romero's industry reputation.

Three years is a long time in the gaming world. In 1997, Quake II was considered revolutionary, and it was this world-sundering technology on which Daikatana was based. However, in the period that it languished, there were developments, not the least of which were Half-Life, Unreal Tournament, and Quake III. These games were the charming urbane businessmen of the gaming world; next to them, Daikatana looked like a chimpanzee which did nothing but sit in its cage and play with itself.

And it's not like under its dirty, dirty skin there was a heart of gold. This was a game that wallowed in its crapulence. It was an entire title built around escort missions. The powerful AI subroutines would strain mightily while you played, driven by primal forces to march your henchmen to their inevitable and game-ending deaths. Time after time the game would spit in your face as you tried futilely to extract the slightest iota of fun from its stygian depths.

The only saving grace of the game was, in fact, its plot. The main character, whose name is Hiro, embarks on a time-travelling adventure using a magical Japanese sword as he attempts to save the world from an oncoming future disaster. History and network television have since proven that that isn't as inherently stupid as it first sounds.

Today John Romero hides from mortal eyes from within his Fortress of Evil. Twisted and deranged, he plots the downfall of human civilisation and dreams of the fateful day when he will, finally, make us all his bitches.


Phrancq said...

Nicely done. By the way, Romero did do some work on one of the more recent Gauntlet games. For Midway.

Greg Tannahill said...

Twisted and deranged, in his Fortress of Evil. Don't try and confuse me with your "facts".

Actually I'm aware that his brain meats were used in the summoning of that Prince of Darkness known as Gauntlet. Later he left Midway in disgrace, and rightly so.