Onder’s Game: Bumper Cars, UNA, and Hogan’s AlleyApril 21, 2007
by Onder Skall
This article was originally published in New World Notes. My latest column (about City of Lost Angels) has already appeared there, but I forgot to repost this earlier. Forgiveness please.
Onder Skall reviews some of the grid’s most intriguing games
Some of the best games are based on childhood memories. Nostalgia is a powerful force when it comes to fun, so today we take a good look at three games that many will remember from our years as young gamers: an arcade machine, a carnival ride, and a card game. Let’s go retro!
Name: Bumper Cars
Creator(s): Sarg Bjornson
Number of Players: Two to Six
Gameplay: Drive your car around and smack into your friends
Top Qualities: Very immersing, well-designed textures, neat extra effects
Current Shortcomings: Vulnerable to lag, pretty big, no sense of progress
Where to Play/Buy:
I’m running a copy at the Games Park, and you can purchase on SLX. (Edit: I’m no longer running a copy at the park but you can check it out over at Prim Hearts where it runs quite a bit better anyhow.)
When I was a kid the bumper cars were, hands down, my favorite carnival ride. Nothing beat smacking into my little sister or side-swiping my best friend and not getting into trouble for it. I can still remember the anticipation of crossing the floor, choosing whichever looked like a “fast one”, and waiting for the sparks to fly. Ah, the smell of ozone and the thud of impact!
Feeling nostalgic, I followed up and acquired a copy for the Games Park. I don’t think I appreciated what a 30 x 30 meter track would look like before I rezzed it, and half of it ended up inside the house. After some shuffling I was able to make it all work out, but be sure to have a nice open space for yourself when the time comes.
The cars themselves look very much like real bumper cars. Riders get the choice of which color they will choose, and optionally they can use a free velocimeter HUD. There’s decent sound to go along with driving and bumping, and the sparks that fall from the ceiling are a nice touch.
Going into mouselook was pretty immersive, but there’s a visceral quality to driving bumper cars that gets lost here. Without the promise of potential whiplash, we drove around at first wondering why this was supposed to be fun… after all, most vehicles in SL randomly bump off of things already.
Of course, we then discovered an “undocumented feature” that made the thing a whole lot of fun: hit somebody just the right way and they get knocked out of the track!
As soon as we found out that there was an opportunity to be mean to our friends, the game got even better. Does that make us twisted? Yeah, probably, but I’ll take fun wherever I can get it.
Later I discovered that the owner can change the per-ride cost and the bump strength. I’m going to be getting a few people together for a totally amped-up game of murder-bumper cars soon. Sarg Bjornson (the creator) built the game to accept new textures on the cars and tent as well, so I’m going to totally trick mine out!
As it turns out, Bumper Cars is a lot of fun, but maybe not for the reasons the designer originally intended. As with everything in Second Life, the users are the best builders of their own experience.
Genre: Card Game
Creator(s): Blue Brock
Number of Players: Two to twelve players
Gameplay: Get rid of all of your cards first to win the pot.
Top Qualities: Good looking HUD, well-enhanced game rules, neat particle effects.
Current Shortcomings: It’s a bit picky about where you click, instructions could be better, I don’t win often enough
Where to Play/Buy: I’m running a copy at the Games Park, and you can purchase at Blue’s Store.
One of my earliest gaming memories was playing Mattel’s brightly colored card game for kids. If you’ve ever played “Crazy 8s” with a normal deck of cards this is very similar, but everything is illustrated nicely on the cards to clearly show what it all does. I really loved the game, but rarely won. I play it now with my six year old daughter, and she kicks my butt too. I figured maybe I’d have better luck with the Second Life version: UNA.
Now, we’ve been discussing kids’ games ported into an adults-only world, and so far it’s worked out well. Still, why not add betting into the mix? Everybody decides what the ante will be, winner gets the pot, and owner can decide on a rake. Even if you think of it as a kids’ game, you have to take it seriously with cash on the line.
The table itself works really well, with a nice interface and really polished looking HUD. The HUD was slightly quirky in that you had to click the left edge of the cards to play them, but otherwise everything moves along quite smoothly. The animation for cards being dealt out is pretty cool too.
There’s really only one problem: the table looks just a bit too good. As a result, the big “Start” button in the middle of the table is easy to overlook. A few of us were really confused the other day, trying to get a game started before we figured that out! Some signage included with the game would be a nice touch, as notecards just don’t do the trick.
Overall, though, this is one of the best card games in SL. You get competition and can use a little skill without having a steep learning curve, and newbies are just as likely to win a game as old timers like me.
Well… either that or I’m just really lousy at it.
Name: Hogan’s Alley
Genre: Shooter (arcade)
Creator(s): Seven Shikami
Number of Players: Solo or two player
Gameplay: Shoot the gangsters, avoid the civilians and cops
Top Qualities: Twitchy lag-resistant action, great sound, nice configuration options
Current Shortcomings: Nothing is completely immune to lag, cabinet design is incidental
Where to Play/Buy: I’m running a copy at the Games Park, and you can purchase at Seven’s Selections.
“Hogan’s Alley” has a long history. The name comes from Camp Perry’s 1920 National Guard training facility of the same name. In 1984 an arcade version proved to be very popular, and it was ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System as a launch title the same year. In 1987 it ported back into real life for the FBI’s “Hogan’s Alley” training facility.
Second Life’s tribute version resembles the NES game. Cardboard cutouts appear randomly on-screen. Shoot the bad guys and avoid shooting friendlies. The game gets faster and faster as time progresses. Game ends when you miss too many bad guys (or hit too many good guys).
The interface couldn’t be simpler. Pay the machine, the game starts in 20 seconds, and if you want a second player they just need to pay the machine before the game starts. Go into mouselook and click on the cutouts as they pop up. A high score board will automatically give you bragging rights.
If you click on the machine without paying you get a free NES lightgun replica. It doesn’t do anything but it’s pretty cool looking, and when you’re in mouselook playing the game your avatar is animated to look like you’re shooting the screen.
Apart from the retro geekout thrill, this is actually a pretty fun game. It’s extremely lag resistant and responsive, making playing game after game a real temptation. As the owner of the machine you get to toggle high scores and change how much the machine charges per game. (I put mine right down to L$1.)
One thing I wasn’t comfortable with was the “attract” noise – that’s the beeping music that the game puts out while nobody’s playing it to catch people’s attention. When I IM’ed Seven Shikami about it he got back to me within 24hrs with a version of the game that makes the noise toggle-able. You just can’t get service like that in RL!
I’ll be shuffling most of the games I own in and out of the Games Park over the next few months, but this one stays for a long time. Whenever I’m waiting for an IM or just need a break, shooting a few rounds on Hogan’s Alley is a great way to pass the time!