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From the Mouth of Madness:
Some Thoughts on Game Design

By Jason "loonyboi" Bergman
Vol. 2, Issue 9
January 24, 2000

Half-Life: there’s not much I can say here that hasn’t already been said. Let’s face it, Half-Life brought storytelling back with a vengeance. Amen.

Grim Fandango: It’s been over a year since Grim Fandango was released, and incredibly enough, there hasn’t been a game this original released since. There have been some interesting games, but not a single one of them draws upon as many diverse sources to create an original whole like Grim Fandango did. I don’t know what Tim Schaefer was thinking when he thought of mixing Mexican mythology with film noir, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t create a masterpiece in the process.

Final Fantasy VIII: I think this game deserves a mention, since well, it sucked me in like few games can claim to do (I barely did anything else for the week or so it took me to finish it) but also since it has such a large, involving plot. In many ways, the previous Final Fantasy games did too (most notably VI and VII) but the characters didn’t interact as well as they do in this latest installment. Play this game, and you’ll be clamoring for more.

System Shock 2: loonygames’ pick for 1999 game of the year was more than just another first person action title, it was a genuinely creepy, creepy story, that sucked you in and refused to let you go. Considering that 90% of the game’s cast is dead before the game even starts, somehow the various crewmembers actually have their backstories filled in, and by the time you’re done with the game, you find yourself knowing a great deal about them. Stop what you’re doing and pick this up. Now. Really. :)

Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus: Ahh...Oddworld. It’s difficult to describe how Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus moves its story forward, because it does it in such a unique way, that it comes across feeling natural. Considering the game is a 2D side-scroller, you wouldn’t expect such a well thought out plot and universe, but boy is it ever a great story. Like Grim Fandango it's also a truly unique vision. Most games borrow heavily from science fiction novels, or movies, or (heaven help us all) other games, but both Oddworld and Grim Fandango are like nothing else out there. Both obviously have their influences (heck, that’s part of the charm of Grim Fandango) but it’s still a genuinely unique vision. Don’t believe me? Go play ‘em, and tell me if you’ve ever seen anything like it.

There you have it, seven, count ‘em, seven games that have come out since that article I wrote two years ago that feature genuine storytelling. But the strange thing, is that there’s lots more than just the seven I listed above. There’s Outcast, Nocturne and Omikron, not to mention Baldur’s Gate and Heretic II. And those are just a few that I’ve come up with off the top of my head! Believe me when I say, that we are entering a real renaissance in game design. As computers get more powerful (and consoles along with them) designers get more and more freedom. And it looks like all that technology is going to be in the right hands.

Until next week, stay loony!


- Jason "loonyboi" Bergman is the editor in chief here at loonygames.

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Credits: Illustration © 2000 Dan Zalkus. From the Mouth of Madness is © 2000 Jason Bergman. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited, you cartoonish villian, you.