The Game That Ate The Earth

My new Escapist article is up, and this one is very personal. It’s the complicated, bitter, glorious, silly and entirely strange history of Phenomenon 32. The Game That Ate The Earth. And it did.

Comments, shares, retweets and musical renditions are welcome. But be nice. Writing this was extremely difficult.


  1. I see what you mean about game design being the hardest of all art forms. I recently downloaded Inform 7, and I looked all over the damned manual, and I still can’t figure out how to make a transition from one part to another, nor can I figure out how to make it so that touching something causes you to go somewhere. Intuitive design tool my ass.

  2. Well, compared to the other stuff, it is. But if that was the only tool? No. It’s not very much so. At first, yes. But then you get stuck on the tiniest things. The manual is a necessity to know how to type in a way that the program will understand. You also, in some cases, have to change the way you think in language. Some things that other people will understand, Inform 7 will not. Seriously, I had a couple of times when I typed this:

    When play begins, say, “X”

    when I had to type this:

    When play begins, say “X”

    One comma. One fucking comma got in my way. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, so I had to fuck around with commas to figure out what I was doing wrong.

  3. Making games is an enormously complex task, and given the complexities involved, Inform is pretty amazing. Challenging, yes – you’ll have to put a lot of effort into learning it. But that’s true of any craft.

  4. Poiupp X

    Mentioned this on The Escapist, but figured it made sense to re-iterate the core point here:

    This article convinced me to try Phenomenon 32. I’m a couple hours in, and I utterly love it. So, for what it’s worth, this game netted you at least one new fan. Even if this game keeps kicking my rear end and I can’t seem to platform jump for beans anymore…

  5. Neat, this showed up on my twitter feed.

    Oh! I remember playing that game. I hate the game, but love the article! Sounds like you learned so much from it. And I’d have to admit, it is a deep and compelling experience. If it hadn’t frustrated me so much, I wouldn’t have banished it from off my hard-drive so long ago.

  6. I wanted to play through Phenomenon 32 – I thought it might be interesting to write up as The Infinite Ocean had already been done on all the major sites. I adored the atmosphere of Phenomenon 32 and wanted to see it through. But, egad, the difficulty.

    I understand that the player should take time to do each section to minimise mistakes, but there are some parts which absolutely need to be done quickly and accurately. Areas where platforms descend; areas where those arachnid horrors bombard the player with missiles. Make a mistake in these sections and the progress of the whole level can be wiped out. After creeping through half a level being gentle and careful, then forced to throw caution to the wind during a dangerous section doesn’t feel like failure is *my* fault.

    I persisted – and explored a number of new sections like a village and an underground shelter. But it was a punishing experience and I haven’t been able to go back for awhile.

  7. Great game! I especially liked the beginning of the sound and the ‘receiving data burst’ screen. I didn’t like how the game crashes right there at the beginning and doesn’t let me play.

    Is this game going to have a Flash remake?
    I’m looking forward to playing it.

  8. Dojutrek

    David, I have to suggest that you run the game with Windows Compatibility Mode under Win NT. It worked for me when the game was not even a day old, maybe it will work for you as well.

    Anyway, I got to say this game still is a wonder. I enjoyed every moment of it and I’m still playing it, even after my 6th or so play through.

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