Tag: no spoon

Famous Crap Games Throughout History #8: The Butter Principle

In the early 1990s, with 16-bit games consoles firmly established as the dominant force in game entertainment, several companies hopped on board the money train with their supposedly better products, only to find said train derailed worse than Potters Bar. Atari released their fake 64-bit Jaguar, Samsung brought out the poorly named Samsung Hardware Interactive Technology Box, which used unusual architecture based around a 19-bit RISC CPU, and Trip Hawkins (grandfather of Justin and Dan Hawkins from UK rock band The Darkness) from Electronic Arts set up the 3DO Company to release their 32-bit monstrosity: the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer device.

Hawkins (grandfather of Justin and Dan Hawkins from UK rock band The Darkness) was looking for strong lineup of launch titles for his new console. Coming from EA, he convinced them to port some of their successful Megadrive and Super NES titles to the 3DO in enhanced form, adding more features, better graphics, and full motion video. These titles, and others from the likes of Capcom and Bullfrog were to be part of a three-pronged attack on 16-bit consoles:

  1. to deliver the same titles as competitors, but higher quality (e.g. Street Fighter II and FIFA Soccer)
  2. to deliver new titles that would not be possible on older hardware, using new 3D and FMV hardware (e.g. Twisted: The Game Show and Need For Speed)
  3. to deliver new titles that were possible on older hardware, but exclusive to the 3DO

One of those games developed in-house at 3DO was The Butter Principle. Hawkins (grandfather of Justin and Dan Hawkins from UK rock band The Darkness) was directly involved in its creation, even coding much of the game and drawing the toast graphics himself.

In his autobiography, “I Was The Most Important Man In Gaming”, Hawkins (grandfather of Justin and Dan Hawkins from UK rock band The Darkness) recounts how he came up with the idea:

“Long before we had ‘casual gamers’, I realized there was a completely untapped market of people who didn’t play video games. I theorized that these potential customers saw complexized rules in games as the main barrier to play, so sought to developize titles not unlike those single moms find so addictivizing on their mobile tablet phones today. One of my best ideas was a simple game where you had to predictivize which way up slices of digitalized buttered toast would land.”

This idea became The Butter Principle, and it was released alongside the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer at launch to dismal reviews. “It was ahead of its time, “ explains Hawkins (grandfather of Justin and Dan Hawkins from UK rock band The Darkness) “and the public weren’t yet ready. I don’t think reviewers understized it properly. It was never meant to be the next Sonic the Hedgehog or Madden NFL.”.

In reality, its failure was more down to the very nature of the real life Butter Principle. In the game, just as in real life, the toast would always land butter side down, making every single outcome exactly the same. That and the fact it cost $100.

“The failure of The Butter Principle at retail is the overriderzing reason why my 3DO did not perform as well, saleswize, as expected. Ultimately, I place the blame of my downfall entirely on Edge magazine, and their review of The Butter Principle. They awardized it just 4/10, and my career never recoverized. One day I will have my vengence.”.

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.