Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Game 85: Splat'ers

Its questionable what counts as part of the game, hence the awkward screenshots
Publisher:Bullseye Software
Developer:Donald A. Hill, Jr. *
Time:1 hour

Paintball is not a subject that has been talked about before on Almost a Famine, probably because nobody really cared about it back in the time period I've covered so far. Leave it up to the Macintosh software library to once again leave a bizarre mark on gaming history. I think that makes it the first of three or four titles. If you're unfamiliar with it, think of it as tag, with guns that shoot tiny balls of paint. I guess there's an aspect of capture the flag to it, since that seems to show up a good chunk of the title I see paintball related activities.

From the practice shooting scenario
Splat'ers is interesting for another reason, though. Its control scheme. Like many pre-modern mouselook games, it has an unusual take on the matter. It attempts to simulate the human body accurately. That means the head and the body moves independently. The keyboard has controls for turning, running, and a whole bunch of little speed changes. The mouse controls your head and gun, and you can turn your head left while turning your body right. In theory you would be able to center along a target while moving, but in practice this system is disorienting. That's right. In real life you can do this, because you have spent a long time orienting yourself so you can do that. On a screen you can't properly handle it. This probably had an affect on the gradual decline of non-traditional mouselook systems.
What's awkward about the controls is you don't have real movement options as you would think of them. The closest are 90 and 180 degree quick turns. The rest are consistent speeds, or a single degree. I guess this is intended to make things less disorienting, but it doesn't really work. You still have to fiddle around with speed while getting shot at, and your reversing speed is lower than your forward speed. Walking while turned at an angle is incredibly awkward to see, and I doubt I could hit anyone this way. Because you move your head using the cursor, and you aim your gun with the cursor, it can be awkward to aim at a target sometimes. Its an incredible achievement, but ultimately, not very fun to seriously use.
Memorize this

And the eventual problem with this complex control scheme is that the game it is used by is...a single player paintball game. You get a football like toss, where you pick who goes in first into a building, you or the enemy. I should note, you have AI teammates, and they're as competent as the enemy ones. Which is actually very good. After 80 or so seconds, the other team can go into the building. Where you shoot each other until one side is dead or one side obtains all the flags. I never won, but eh.
The fun bit comes from the game's customization of parameters. You can choose some bits about the building, though I suspect this is more limiting than it first seems. Stuff like floors, number of flags. And quite a bit about character parameters. Ammo, number of enemies, number of AI buddies, how long it takes them to acquire a target, how many hits it takes to be taken out, and how long it takes to return after being taken out. Unfortunately, once you've been taken out, that's it.
There are some preset scenarios, but I have to admit I didn't find the game much compelling to play. Once you're done messing with the controls, you've seen it all. Its not a complex game, its the kind of thing that could have been amazing if it was a game developed for Linux, with an open-source mindset. But as it stands, its worthy for messing around with a while.

A typical paintball gun. 1/10

Dudes with paintball guns. 1/10

Dudes with paintball guns. 1/10

Potentially endless fun. 1/10

Player Agency:
A bizarre...thing. Hard to sum up. 2/10

Pressing L to call the elevator and then change floors is the extent of it. 0/10

There's something here. 1/10

This game looks curiously well in motion, kind of like black magic. I think its true 3D too. A bit too reliant on pure blacks and whites with outlines though. 2/10


A few token sounds, hitting a wall, and of course, the sound of paintballs. 1/10

That's 10. A very interesting curiosity, more so if you enjoy paintball. No joke, if you didn't know, the Extreme Paintbrawl series, of 4 titles, is allegedly some of the worst games ever made by man.

This marks the second to last Macintosh game before the big 100. After this, true Macintosh exclusives get rarer and rarer.

*From what I've read, the two are so intertwined it might as well be his company, if it isn't.

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