Why I Love is a series of guest editorials on GamesIndustry.biz intended to showcase the ways in which game developers appreciate each other's work. This entry was contributed by Perfectly Paranormal's Ozan Drøsdal, the Norwegian studio behind adventure game Manual Samuel, published by Curve Digital, and the upcoming Helheim Hassle.
I was always an avid consumer of cartoons. As a kid, I would wake up at ridiculous hours to catch my favourite animated shows, at times even crows considered early. I was also a picky consumer of cartoons. I had no interest in "realistic" cartoons, be it about superheroes or magic dudes from distant realms. I needed talking animals and stylized characters with messed up anatomies: mice that tried to take over the world, and little boys with a huge laboratory in their parents' basement. Absurdity.
The thing about my types of cartoons and their absurdity is that once you buy their ludicrous premise, you'll buy anything. At this point, anything can happen. Once these things appear, they're presented in colourful, moving, hand-drawn images - a truly magical experience.
Now for me back then, games were something else. I had a PlayStation One (I still have it actually) and the games I played were games. I loved them, but they weren't cartoons. I would kick my friends' asses in Tekken and roam around the plains as Spyro for hours. My juvenile eyes would turn red and my parents would tell me tales about other kids that played too much and now had to live with square-shaped eyes. I didn't care. If having the time of my life in Crash Team Racing meant I would get square-shaped eyes, then dammit, I didn't want regular shaped eyes! I loved games. But they weren't cartoons.
One day, I visited an older friend who owned one of the machines we only heard fables about back then: a coooompuuuuteeer. [cue gospel music.] I saw him watch a cartoon on the thing and asked what it was. I was somewhat of a cartoon buff when I was nine years old, so I was surprised I hadn't seen it before. He explained to me that it was, in fact, a game called Monkey Island 3, and my mind was blown forever. The same day he showed me Jazz Jackrabbit and Worms... More cartoon games. I never wanted to leave!
A few years later, we got our own wonder-machine. Then, after weeks of saving, I finally got to the point where I went to the ... woah, what are those called? A vidya gaim stoure? Anyway, I went there and looked upon the giant boxes PC games had back then. And there he was. Some sort of a buff looking soldier dude with a golden tooth grinning at the camera, firing a mini-gun with one hand and launching a sheep from a bazooka with the other.
They obviously looked nothing like the characters in the game. But I knew. I knew that this was why I was there. Above the farm-animal-firearm-wielding invertebrate, it was written with taunting letters: WORMS ARMAGEDDON. And boy did I buy that thing, dancing the entire way home, singing about worms. I was a weird kid.
Once you buy into the fact that you're a worm duking it out with other worms using cattle as weapons of mass destruction, anything can happen. Absurdity. This was right up my alley. Awesome cartoony 2D graphics. Check. Talking animals. Check. Exploding old ladies. Check, check and double check.
For the following year, I was buried in my room practising my ninja rope after school. Finishing single-player mode before breakfast. Unlocking every weapon. Making my own maps. Learning all the dialogue (at least those I could understand) by heart. Drawing worms everywhere. Convincing my friends to get it for themselves at every gathering. (I went to a lot of cocktail parties as a 10 year old.)
There was no internet in those days, so you might not think there was a Worms community, but I was slowly forming one. At school we would discuss our rope training personal records, where we could meet and play against each other, which of the billion voice overs were the funniest, and whether or not using the Holy Hand Grenade was considered a "dick move." It was a blast, pun very much intended.
"Can you imagine? A bunch of strangers in an online game following rules that they don't need to follow"
But then we DID get internet. One of the things that makes Worms Armageddon so special is the fact that the developers shipped it with simple game modes. Blow each other up with only bazookas and grenades, blow each other up within a strict time limit, blow each other up with every single weapon available. But the online community had other plans. They invented new game modes where you could race against each other with ropes only. Rules like picking up a crate before attacking or only attack the one that is leading were introduced, which made the game so much more interesting.
Here's the kicker: there were no mods. The only way to get these new game modes to work was if everyone just followed the new rules introduced. And everyone did. Can you imagine? A bunch of strangers in an online game following rules that they don't need to follow. There was no trolling, no cheesing, no dairy at all. There were no bans, no cheating, and no ranking system. The only rank you got was when you kicked so much ass that you got a rumour within the server for being the fastest grenade thrower in the Wild Wild West.
People made their own maps and uploaded them on the internet and they were there for everyone to enjoy. At this point, I was playing Worms on the internet as much as I could, and our internet bill was off the hook. We had to sell the family cow and my parents called an exorcist to rid me of my addiction.
Then, as I got older, I started messing with the PC. Going into places and looking at files and messing things up and having to wait two weeks for the PC to get fixed. This is when I realised another magical thing that makes Worms so special: you can draw your own flags and gravestones, and just put them in the flags and gravestones folder in the game.
But that's not all. You can also make your own voice bundles and add your bundle into the game as a language - easy peasy. So obviously I started making my own language packs. Changing out the phrase "Yes, sir" with "MY NAME IS OZAN BABY". Then I would force my friends to play it on my PC and encourage them to trigger every single dialogue I had worked so hard on. The funny thing is this is a big part of my job now. I write conceptual dialogue and record placeholder voices for about 6,000 hours a week. I guess that's the way the cookie crumbles.
Anyway, it's been 20 years and I still boot up Worms Armageddon and venture around servers that would be old enough to get a driver's licence if they'd been people. And guess what? So do about 20 other people out there, and we click into a game of rope race and complain about our finger joints not being what they used to be.
Upcoming Why I Love column:
- Tuesday, October 23 - Sumo Digital's Jamie Smith on Diddy Kong Racing
As you might have noticed, we're running low on Why I Love columns. Developers interested in contributing their own write-up are encouraged to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!