There’s your first game, and there’s your favorite game.
Our favorite games inform so much about our playing habits. Mega Man 2 institutionalized my love for hard-as-nails platformers, while Deus Ex...well, I just really loved Deus Ex, and it mostly spoiled me on games with a deep story and engaging player choices.
Rather than going on and on about my favorites, I’m going to ask developers (weekly, if I can help it, but probably not) about their favorite games, and how said games have influenced them. This is meant to be short, sweet, and to the point, with a set of questions hopefully provoking interesting answers.
First up, Trapdoor creative director Kelly Smith. Trapdoor’s Warp, published by Electronic Arts, kicks off Microsoft’s “House Party” promotion on Xbox Live Arcade this week. If you’re not familiar with Warp, our lengthy Quick Look EX should get you up to speed, but here's what you need to know: you can possess dudes and blow 'em up. Neat.
(Note: This feature doesn't have a name. I kept trying to come up with something clever, and failed. Ideas?)
Giant Bomb: If you’re forced to choose only one, what’s your favorite video game?
GB: Do you know how old you were when you first played Combat? What do you remember?
Smith: When I was a kid my family really encouraged us to be interested in technology. For Christmas one year my grandparents got us an Atari 2600 and I’ve never looked back. We had the Pitfall games, Crackpots, Frostbite, River Raid, and lot of other great games, but Combat was easily what I played the most. I was always bugging everybody in the family to play with me, but if nobody was around I would just practice by myself.
GB: Now, the hard part: why is Combat your favorite video game? What makes it stand above all others?
Smith: It largely comes down to nostalgia and the impact it had on my life. Even after we had a Genesis and SNES, the ol’ wood paneled Atari stayed connected nearby. I’m certain that Christmas gift from my grandparents had a huge role in me eventually working in this industry.
GB: Do you still return to Combat every so often? How come? What changes when you go back?
Smith: I don’t really play it much anymore because it’s hard to find people to play with. A few years ago a friend got me one of those replica 2600 consoles with the games built into it. We played a bunch that night and it was exactly like I remembered, janky controls and all. I think it would have felt wrong without them.
Needless to say, I got a pretty big kick out of the Giant Bomb Holiday Nostalgiafest.
GB: Has Combat influenced the way you make video games? In what ways?
Smith: Combat is a great example of how minor changes in core mechanics will dramatically alter how you play. I like to start with an idea and then list all of the ways it could branch off, eventually picking out the ones that are the most appealing.
Some of the strange later game modes may have also played a part in my fascination with asymmetrical multiplayer. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to explore that in future projects.
GB: When you first played Combat, you just played games for fun. Today, you make them. How does that color the experience?
Smith: Thinking about the mechanics of the world while you play can often spoil the experience, but I can also appreciate the effort and talent that goes into my favorite games. Even if there is something frustrating in a game, I try to think about WHY it’s that way rather than just cursing too much. From past experience, it’s usually a pretty reasonable production issue, not just somebody being lazy.
GB: In a single sentence, convince anyone reading this why, if they haven't, they should play Combat.
Smith: Sometimes if you sneak up on somebody and lock your tank into theirs, you can throw them through the screen.