The comp.sys.sinclair crap games competition 2015 -

it's crap! In a funky skillo sort of a way.

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Famous Crap Games Throughout History #9: Incontinental Circus

It is well known that in the late 1980s the Japanese game company Taito made a slight error with one of their titles, releasing an F1 racer called “Continental Circus” after a poor translation of “Continental Circuit”. It was an easy mistake to make, I mean, the S key is right next to the IT key on Japanese keyboards.

What is less well known is a far more interesting story and it started two years before Continental Circus, with Incontinental Circuit.

Taito (back then, known as Potaito) had developed what they thought was bound to be the next big thing in gaming – two player head-to-head motor racing with bladder control. Literally. A pair of huge arcade cabinets, each housing a large screen, a reclining chair, a steering wheel, foot pedals, and a number of straps and sensors that needed to be attached to the player. A drinking fountain was angled towards the player’s mouth, and after inserting a few 100 Yen coins, the game began.

Much like in most other motor racing games, the aim was to win the race, but the twist with Incontinental Circuit was that your car’s engine power increased as you, the player, physically filled their bladder. The more you drank, the higher your vehicle’s top speed. Don’t drink, and your car loses power. The first to pass the Chequered Flag was the winner, the first to pass urine was disqualified. That’s right – moisture sensors in the seat would alert the game to your embarrassing release.

Unfortunately for Potaito, they were hit from all sides with issues. The main one that hit the headlines was over gamers sitting in a pool of other peoples’ fluids as arcade staff failed to mop up after disqualifications, and all the associated health risks that came with it. This was the 1980s, remember, and popular myth at the time was how easy it was to contract AIDS from arcade machines. Other problems just made things worse. The water fountains needed to be connected to a water supply, which was something most arcades struggled to accommodate. All that water (and “previously drunk” water) in close proximity to electricity caused several shocking deaths, and one unfortunate individual managed to drown when his water fountain malfunctioned and he couldn’t get out of the seat straps quickly enough.

What really killed the game off, however, was the cheating. Players soon found that by wearing adult nappies, they could thwart the sensors and wet themselves all they liked without the game noticing.

Finally, and perhaps most damning of all, was when the game was produced, the translator at Potaito managed to name the game as Incontinental Circus, rather than Incontinental Circuit, confusing gamers everywhere.

With the game an expensive flop (all those proprietary and unusual components almost bankrupted Potaito before the cabinets even hit the arcades), Potaito gutted the core game and repurposed it as a more standard F1 racing game. No water, drinking or sensors. They called it Continental Circuit, but somehow the same translator made the same mistake again. He never found translating work after that, and the entire fiasco was blamed on him and him alone.

Famous Crap Games Throughout History #7: Fire Equals Pain

Many, many school games can fall into the category of “crap”, like marbles, football and Hang Mr Frobisher, but few are both crap and stupid in the way Fire Equals Pain is. Or rather, was, as it is banned from every school across the whole of the UK, and has been since a well publicised incident in 1984. Up until then it was a common winter sport in Physical Education lessons, and even had inter-school competitions, with a national Fire Equals Pain league set up in 1956, initially for boys only but girls were allowed to take part after 1966.

It’s unknown who originally came up with the idea for Fire Equals Pain, and informally it was known by many names in different parts of the country. In Cornwall, it was called simply “Burn”, in parts of Wales it was known as “Fireboys” (as in “Choirboys Play Fireboys”), and in Newcastle school children referred to it as “Aye, That’ll Hurt”.

The premise is simple, and stupid, and you’ve probably played it or a variant yourself at some point: hold your hand over a lit candle, match, or lighter for as long as possible. Whoever can do it longest, wins. There’s a doubles version, where both players on one team hold each other’s hands over the flame. Unsurprisingly, a lot of people got burnt.

However, the Fire Equals Pain League Association (FEPLA) put an end to playing the game in any form after an important league match ran into overtime. Usually, when it’s a draw, the players play again, only hold their hands half an inch closer to the flame. A normal Scarborough Rules match starts with hands at four inches, but when tied, another round at three and a half inches is played. If the players are still tied, this is moved to three, then two and a half, then two inches. In this match between Paul Tripping of Dagenham and previous champion Rhys Anpeace from Aberystwyth, the pair were exactly level after all these additional tie break rounds.

The crowd were tiring, the referee wanted an end to the match. He consulted the FEPLA officials and it was decided to swap out the regulation candles for bunsen burners for one final round. It was a tragic decision.

No sooner had the round started, it was noted that the bunsens were set to a blue flame. The match recorder wrote in her witness statement that both Tripping and Anpeace alerted the referee to this mistake, but the referee insisted they play on at a deadly one inch elevation. The crowd gasped, and the whistle blew. Within seconds both Tripping and Anpeace’s hands were alight. Both struggled hard to maintain their stance, and quickly both were completely ablaze. Members of the crowd shouted for them to stop the game, but the referee insisted play continued. A man on the front row, John Johnsonson, grabbed a fire extinguisher but before he could use it the referee wrestled him to the ground, knocking him out. What happened next is unclear, as the flames had spread from the two players to the surrounding area, and everyone except the players and referee fled the scene, just in time to survive a massive explosion that fire investigators later attributed to Paul’s superheated bladder swelling like a hot air balloon, then rupturing.

The game was never officially played again.

How to write a crap game

There is no sure fire way of creating the perfect crap game. Nor is there a recipe for success in the competition. But! Include as many of these things as possible (including those that contradict the other things) to try to maximise your chances.

1. The name

No matter what you’re told, the name of your game is the most important thing. The competition can be won or lost based entirely on the name. The best worst names are hilarious puns, titles as long as a B52, and names that reference silly comp.sys.sinclair in-jokes. Usually about llamas or terrible TV adverts.

2. The loading screen

Even though most emulators quick-load and the loading screen is barely seen, it is VITAL you have a terrible loading screen. You can cheat using a PC based graphics package and a converter, but the best crap screens are hand made with rubbish colour clash. For bonus points, make bits of it flash for no reason.

3. The instructions

Ideally, you shouldn’t include any. If you do, it is best if they don’t actually instruct. Or are wrong. You can unintentionally manage this by writing the instructions before you’ve finalised the game idea, meaning the game you end up with is then likely to be a mismatch with the instructions.

4. The controls

Did your instructions include how to control the game? You’ve already failed, friend. Eschew standard Speccy game conventions of QAOP (or the superior ZXPL) and try something more eclectic. However, don’t make the game unplayable with ridiculous direction remapping as that’s trying too hard. And nobody likes a tryhard. NOBODY. Joystick support? Go home, pal. Go home.

5. The music and sound effects

Catchy and ear splitting are excellent bedfellows here. Slightly out of tune earworms are perfect for crap games, and sound effects that have no bearing on the action are perfect. Having to listen to a terribly written, unskippable ditty before every game (and for extra marks, every time you start a level or lose a life) is god-tier crap gameage.

6. Game options

No. Just no.

7. The graphics

Just being crap at drawing isn’t sufficient here. Any crap game author can spunk out a few sprites that don’t resemble anything. Much better is to have awesome graphics, but then double-cross the player by having shonky animation, garish colour schemes (which we all know is very difficult on a Spectrum), or unworkable collision detection. Or just use ASCII characters.

7. The gameplay

The best way to guarantee your promotion to the premier league of crap game authors is to… oh, we’ve run out of space.

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