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Fair Game: The 12 Least Popular Game Innovations of All Time

Column By Lisa Jonte on April 05, 2013

Making a buck ain’t easy, and over the years, game companies have tried many different tricks in pursuit of gamers’ wallets and the sweet, sweet spendable booty within. Not all their attempts have been successful, however and we're exploring a bunch of those less than stellar ideas.

Armor - Oh, armor. Where would we be without it? (Aside from naked in battle, I mean.)

1. Edible Armor: The idea being that backpacks looked silly and ruined one’s attempt to cut an adventuresome dash, one needed a way to do without them. Alas, adventurers have an unfortunate tendency to injury, and healing draughts simply have to go somewhere. Several attempts (and much chafing) later, and the idea for eating one’s own armor was born. If injured, one could simply start snapping off (and snacking on) one’s pauldrons. Edible Armor was available in three styles: Matzo Mail, Jerky Jerkins and Flowing Robes of Ramen; eventually discontinued after the invention of pockets.

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2. Fashionable Fenestrations: Ultra stylish openings in character armor that allowed all manner of pointy objects to bypass the protective bits and puncture your vital organs. Because, FASHION! (Sadly, still in use by many games today.)

Character Classes - The standard mix of Warrior, Mage, Cleric and Thief, having long since lost its luster, has game designers ever on the hunt for something new and exciting for players to imprint upon like addled baby birds.

3. Mettlemancer: Built on the least popular bits of the AD&D Bard class and the premise that, ‘if it ain’t broke, try harder’, the Mettlemancer’s main function was not so much to help the other classes actually win battles, but rather to help them stage a defiant, yet morally uplifting defeat. Main spell arsenal included Pluck, Spunk, Guts and Sass.

4. Life Coach: Similar (but for copyright reasons, not identical) to the Mettlemancer, the Life-coach doesn’t attack, defend or heal. Instead, the LC shouts encouragement during battle, and gently whispers, “There, there, you gave it a good try and that’s what counts,” as your hit points drain out through the arrow holes in your fashion sense.

5. Narrative Player Character: Publicly offered as, “A way for players to really experience the depth and breadth of the game, from the inside out!” by letting them staff the game world as merchants, farmers, quest givers and actuaries. According to court documents, however, (filed by thousands of gamers deeply distressed by their own apparent gullibility) it was actually a financial maneuver intended to make up for executive depletion of venture capital on hookers and blow.

Expansions - The clamor for romance options and NPCs lead certain game companies to believe that if gamers will fork over for... ahem, enjoy one aspect of human relationships in-game, then they would enjoy all the conditions that come with them, (which is rather like saying that if gamers enjoy travelling to fantasy lands, they should also enjoy dysentery.)

6. Vegas Wedding: Spectacularly combined all the fun of an alcohol fugue state with the terror of having unknowingly taken one’s finger off a very important checker. Pre-order bonuses included an Elven Elvis Minister NPC, and a sheet of booze-breath & stale cigarette scratch-n-sniff stickers.

7. Family Reunion: FR was designed to give players a ‘full life experience’, by adding a random happenstance generator to the game engine. Random happenstances included, but were not limited to: Embarrassing sibling and in-law NPCs that would piss and moan about how the PC was doing nothing with her/his life, and sudden teleports to the local bail-bondsman that would instantly reduce the PC’s gold balance to zero. Pre-order bonus was an additional pop-up function for players, reminding them to get a real job, stop dating losers, eat more fiber, and for Pete’s sake, call home once in awhile.

Attacks - The hue and cry over violence in video games has lead more than one game company a merry chase, desperately trying to tone down the turpitude without turning off the financial taps.

8. The Mickey Rooney: AOE, does 0 physical damage, but instantly renders all adjacent enemies (friends, NPCs, players) unconscious, through the power of song!

9. The Annie: AOE, does 0 physical damage, but instantly drains all adjacent enemies (friends, NPCs, players) of their will to live, through the power of song!

10. The Vogue: AOE, self only, does 0 damage, period. Spellcaster instantly strikes one of several possible dramatic poses, effectively awing the bejeezus out of all enemies within range for the duration of battle. Spellcaster and enemies are both rendered immobile, requiring the target’s teammates to do the actual dirty work.  Spell effects include: swelling music, lens flare and temporary loss of helmet to allow for dramatic billowing of hair.

Miscellaneous - Because there’s MONEY in them thar... uh, other things vaguely associated with games.

11. Build-a-Troll Workshop: A forums-only, subscription app intended to take the drudgery out of being a semi-sapient jackass online. Offering automated response modes such as, Projectile Bile, Straw Man Bingo and Schrodinger’s Douchebag, BaT allowed otherwise reasonable human beings to experience the thrill of winning arguments that no one was actually having, without the messy bother of not reading what was posted, or constructing their own inarticulate spew. It was ultimately discontinued after the corporate heads discovered that, with the app doing all the heavy lifting, people were abandoning the forums in favor of the reality-based adventures of Going Outside and Getting Shit Done.

12. Anything offered by EA, ever.

And now, a few responses to last column’s comment thread:

Dracondis said:  “NPCs aren't just there as J Random Vendordude.”

J. Random Vendordude, is totally going to be the title of my autobiography. Or the name of my garage band. Or my criminal mastermind alias.

JBombard said:  “The link doesn't appear to be working.  Also … you should probably mention the original author of those 10 commandments, Marty Sklar.”

Correct on both counts, (though I swear the link was functional when I chose it.) And I should have mentioned Marty Sklar as the original author in the article; not doing so was a rookie mistake on my part.  Thanks for pointing that out.

Until next time, have a very happy April, you delightful fools.

Images used are copyright free and/or used with permission. Speaking of permission, as you amble about the Interwebz,  do check out For Lack of a Better Comic. There’s a good fellow.


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