Goldeneyed

I love reading ‘oral histories’ of things , where a reporter gathers recollections of events or cultural phenomena and weaves together a story that becomes more real than a single perspective or more formal analysis. They can be slightly contrived, but when they’re done well they’re hard to beat. A great example is this retelling of the filming of Predator, which is hilarious.

I really admire Arnold because he knew exactly what he was playing. I remember there’d be rewrites every morning, and one morning Arnold steamed out of his trailer straight up to John and grabbed him by the collar and said “John…” and John said “Yes?” “There are four words here; I’ll do three.”

Today I read a slightly more low key one about the making of Goldeneye, the classic Nintendo 64 game that (almost accidentally) reinvented – or more correctly invented – the multiplayer FPS on a console.

Doak: The multiplayer mode, which is now seen as critical for its big success, was for a long time just a wish-list thing, not a thing that we were definitely going to have. The N64 had four controller ports so it invited the idea that you’d have four-player split screen, but we were only going to program a multiplayer mode if we had time.

The story has some great images of hand drawn level maps and faxed bug reports. Amazingly the 21 year old game still has a vibrant and dedicated community playing it, largely due to the rise of speedrunning, and the support Goldeneye included for that activty before it was a thing:

Doak: We inadvertently invited speedrunning from very early on, because we had the timed unlocks.

Clark: Finishing the level faster than the target time unlocked a cheat. The harder the target time, the more awesome the cheat mode: Turbo mode, Bond invisible, invincibility, unlimited ammo — essentially keys to enter God Mode, a means to explore the game in unimaginable ways. Personally, the challenge itself got me addicted: It was a very dynamic game for speedrunning, and the target times were a clear invitation to prove yourself. Facility 00 Agent’s target of 2:05 was the legendary measuring stick. The elite.net, the home of GoldenEye speedrunning, has been tracking records since 1998. Remarkably, the game has more active speedrunners right now than at any point in the past.

The speedrunning detail reminded me of an amazing video I stumbled across last year, which showed Australian (represent!) streamer Karl Jobst beating a 15 year old record as it happened. It takes 52 seconds and his reaction when he realises is incredible. From a completely relaxed start – and probably his billionth attempt so he’s not expecting anything – to an emotional wreck.

Watching that led to a rabbit hole of trying to understand what I was watching. The aforementioned The Elite Rankings has a huge history of speedrun times, and such esoteric concepts as tied vs non-tied world records. From there I found a YouTuber RWhiteGoose who has a channel where he talks in great detail about the lore of Goldeneye speedrunning. Some of the epsiodes run for hours talking about a 60 second level, discussing the records and how they were achieved and then bettered. I was fascinated to see he’d posted an analysis of whether ‘Dam 52’ was even possible 10 months before Jobst proved that indeed it was.

All of which led to one of the most entertaining gaming videos I’ve ever seen. I kept seeing references to Ryan Lockwood’s legendary run on ‘Streets 1:12’, and eventually found Goose’s 2h40m analysis of that run, including the full video and audio. 2 and a half hours on a 1:13 run might sound excessive – ok it is excessive – but sit back, skip to 1:37:15, and enjoy. Language warning!

Console-ation

Coming back to your PC one afternoon to find it dead, and still dead after hours of fiddling, and deader still after days of troubleshooting, and confirmed dead after weeks of swapping parts, and finally condemned after even a multimeter on the motherboard couldn’t help, is not recommended. It certainly puts a stop to any MMO play, and also puts a stop to blogging.

Due to a combination of option paralysis and over analysis, it’s taken 6 months to get a new one built and installed. Which put me so far behind in Warcraft that all I could do before Battle for Azeroth was finish of Legion flying, and unlock the Highmountain Tauren and Nightborne allied races (I pity the Alliance who could only unlock their extra races after finishing late-game Argus factions). I’ll mainly regret never getting the Field Medic title, but after grinding hundreds of poor murlocs (some revenge for the many times they swarmed a levelling lowbie) time just ran out.

However the enforced break did have some positive consequences, mainly in the form of playing some long queued-up PS4 and Xbox One games1.


First up was Uncharted 1 & 2, featuring the charming, handsome, and literally bulletproof Nathan Drake.

Handsome, and Nate

These are old games now, but they still play as smooth as butter and look good too in their remastered states. It’s on-rails (literally in the case one of the best sequences on a moving train), Indiana Jones meets Lara Croft high adventure, all told with great vim and vigour, and the British humour is welcome.

There’s a tad too much gunplay sometimes, but the sheer inventiveness of the set pieces and beautiful locales make it all worthwhile. I’m pleased to think there’s 3 more games to go – just have to wait for the PC to break again I guess.


Next I plunged in to Horizon Zero Dawn, which is a beautiful game to play and watch. The scenery is often breathtakingly lush, and it’s set in a unique and totally compelling world of mechanical animals and primitive human civilisation.

The lead character, Aloy, is a great protagonist, vastly different from the smirking Drake and a perfect example of how to create new and interesting heroes without having to fall back on standard tropes.

The control and animation is a treat too, all feeling natural enough to pick up and play relatively easily even after a break. I spent a lot of time just wandering around foraging and exploring, slightly resenting having to deal with the mechanical wildlife when I strayed too close.

Worth the climb – this is the view from the back of a moving ‘Tallneck’ dinosaur

I didn’t finish HZD though, mainly due to the sheer size of the game. I thought I was traveling quite well and progressing the story, only to unlock a new section of the map that totally took the wind out of my sails. It was overwhelming to see how much more there was to do, to the extent that I downed controller and moved on.


As a palate cleanser I dipped back in to the online stalwart that is GTA V.

Seems legit

The single player game is too brutal for me, but the online version is so full of ridiculous things to do (play golf or tennis, try and steal an army jet, race through Hot Wheels tracks in the sky) that it’s hard to resist. It’s an MMO without any question, albeit one without any structure other than the city you live in.


Due to various Rockstar bonus events, I managed to save enough to buy a posh apartment this time around, which was fun – just like real life without the responsibility. I find GTA has only short term novelty value (though many would disagree – there’s plenty of role playing and career gaming happening there), so before long it was time for the highlight of this console escapade.


Welcome to Armadillo

Red Dead Redemption.

Easily one of the greatest games I’ve ever played. I’m a sucker for Westerns and RDR revels in the stories and traditions of the genre, then lets you live in it2. It’s quite incredible.

I’d started and stopped it many times before (‘I should be paying Warcraft not this’), but this time it got the hooks in deep. RDR is a sprawling Western told through the eyes of John Marsden, a perfectly realised and written Western hero, fitting every stereotype yet rising above them all. The land he inhabits is full of wonderful characters, ranging from mad grave diggers to Mexican Cartel Generals, and everything in between.

The range of personalities is great, and they’re all fully voiced, but it’s the landscape that is the real star. It’s beautiful and barren, dangerous and serene, begging you to stay on horseback and just ride as far as you can to see where you end up.

For an 8 year old game it still looks stunning, and the fact there is a remastered 4K version for the Xbox One X almost made me buy a whole new console just to see it in full glory.

No cow left behind
Of course being a Rockstar game there are few women, and unfortunately RDR2 looks to continue that tradition, but there is one very well written NPC that makes up for some of that. Some of the storylines are throw away, but many pack gut punches and emotional heft well beyond what you would expect from such a well trodden genre.

And, no spoilers, but it has the most powerful endings to a game I’ve ever experienced.


  1. Plus watching Game of Thrones S1-S7, finally. 
  2. Which made watching Westworld after playing RDR a real pleasure.