Tuesday, September 20, 2022

The Complete History of Destroy All Humans - Post Mortem

As of September 20, 2022, the Complete History of Destroy All Humans has been out for three days, and so far, it's doing well, better than I expected. The video has over 2,100 views and reactions have been overwhelmingly positive. Heck, the writer of the first two games, Tom Abernathy, live-tweeted his reactions, which was a first!

Now, that the video is out, I've been able to rest, recuperate, and gather my thoughts. This is a post-mortem on the project where I talk about what it took to bring it all together.

Before I start, I want to say thanks for your support. You guys are what pushed me to see this documentary through and make it something special. It had its hurdles, especially in the last couple of months, but I got it done.

Origins

As I've mentioned many times before, I'm a huge fan of "Destroy All Humans." I played the original and its sequel when I was 14 and they blew my mind. Up until then, I had played stuff like "Mario" or "Spyro," stuff mainly meant for kids. "Destroy All Humans" was one of my earliest exposures to games meant for an older audience. It may have been rated T but running around, probing butts as a Jack Nicholson-sounding alien left an impression on my puny mind.

I remember when I first beat the original and unlocked the extras like "Developer Darwinism." I was blown away by all the behind-the-scenes info they showed. This was the first instance where I learned about game development and how a game evolves from its early version to the final product.

I played the later sequels and enjoyed them, but when I learned how bad the reviews were for "Path of the Furon," I remember wondering why the game reviewed so badly, despite how the old trailers hyped it up.

Years pass, I get older, and though my tastes in gaming expand, I never forgot "Destroy All Humans."

In 2020 and 2021, I did a handful of interviews with people who worked on the series, including writer Tom Abernathy and "Big Willy Unleashed" producer Ken Allen. In late 2021, I wrote a short piece about the making of "Path of the Furon" and "Big Willy Unleashed." Both were well-received, and in "Path of the Furon's" case, someone shared it on the Two Best Friends Play subreddit.

Seeing the reactions from the interviews and retrospectives got the juices flowing, and in November, I began outlining the project.

Initial Ideas

The original idea for "The Complete History of Destroy All Humans" was to do a 30-minute video on the series. I was going to do a handful of interviews to get some additional info. At the start of 2022, I decided to expand the project into a five-part series, with a separate video on each game. 

Then, it became a three-part series at the suggestion of Gautier Roux, the man behind the Destroy All Humans Tribute Twitter page. THEN, I decided to go all-out and make it a feature length video. I wanted to test myself as a content creator, and I figured making it feature-length instead of breaking it up into parts was the way to go.

Goals/Vision

My goal for this documentary was to make something comprehensive, in-depth, but didn't overstay its welcome or get bogged by mundane details. There's a documentary on "Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly" on YouTube, and while it has some great stories about the game's troubled development, it lacks structure and features a lot of pointless detours talking about unused assets, music, etc.

I didn't want to make that. I wanted to make something both the hardcore DAH fan could enjoy, but also the average Joe who knows nothing about the games and wants to learn how they were made.

Matt McMuscles' "What Happened?" series was a huge influence. In the span of 15-20 minutes, his videos give you everything you need to know about the bad game or movie being discussed. I applied that mindset to the documentary.

The idea was you could jump in, watch any part of the video, or the whole video, and learn everything possible.

Another influence was "More Brains: A Return to the Living Dead." This is a two-hour documentary about the 1985 horror/comedy "Return of the Living Dead" and it gives you everything you might want to know about the movie's production, plus some stuff you didn't know about. It's two hours long, but it doesn't feel like two hours because it moves along at a swift pace.

I wanted to make this documentary lean, mean, but informative. I sent a 40 min. rough cut to an editor friend of mine and after watching it he said it didn't feel like 40 minutes had passed by.

Research and Interviews

Because this was a documentary, it meant doing research and more importantly, doing interviews. The interviews were one of the vital aspects of the documentary because they helped shape the script. All told, I interviewed 15 people for the project.

How did I reach out to them? Social media. I asked politely if they would be willing to answer questions for the project. Then I wrote the questions, sent it to them, and waited for his/her response.

Their answers helped shape the script and add meat to parts lacking info. For example, the "Destroy All Humans 2" section was the shortest section for the longest while. It wasn't until I got in contact with Kiera Lord and Milenko Tunjic that I got some extra info on the game's development.

In some cases, it led to some surprises, like when I interviewed Don Traeger, the head of Locomotive Games, who revealed "Big Willy Unleashed" was initially conceived as a collaboration with Pandemic Studios.

Like I said, Gautier Roux was very helpful because he provided me with archives of DAH-related material he's found over the years. From concept art to beta images and more, he's cultivated quite a bit, and it made the process of finding interesting/lost DAH material much easier.

With a big project like this, there were challenges; many, many challenges...

Challenges

Because "The Complete History of Destroy All Humans" was a one-man army project, it meant I was doing all the heavy lifting. I did all the outlining, writing, and editing. When I first started working on the project, the idea was I'd script it in the winter, shoot and edit it during the spring, then release it summer 2022.

Yeah, and monkeys will fly out of my butt!

In all seriousness, I was working two jobs at the time. This didn't leave a lot of wiggle room, so I had to either work on the project, or work on videos I had planned for my then-newly launched YouTube channel. No joke, one night at my second job, I wrote questions and sent them to one of my interviewees while I was on the clock. Good thing I didn't get caught.

Eventually, I left both jobs and began working a new job that freed up my schedule considerably. Then, it was full steam ahead.

Missed Opportunities

I didn't interview any voice actors because I didn't want to go through the hassle of contacting their agents to arrange a short interview that may or may not would have happened. It would have been great if I had been able to speak with Grant Albrecht or Richard Horvitz, but it didn't happen.

I also didn't interview anyone who works at Black Forest Games. It would have been nice to get insight from them about the making of both remakes and what they hope the future holds for their studio and DAH, but it didn't happen. Fortunately, I was able to utilize interviews they had already done.

I had thought about including a short bit about the cell-phone games, but in the end, I decided not to worry about them. I didn't consider them essential in the grand scheme of things.

Deadlines

I studied journalism in college, and one thing constantly repeated by my teachers is deadlines are a journalist's worst enemy. Either you make the deadline, or you don't.

I had planned to release the documentary in August, and when "Destroy All Humans 2: Reprobed" was announced for August 30, I thought I'd be able to finish it and release it the day before the game's release.

That wasn't the case.

I had to finish some other videos first, and by the time I could work on the documentary, the game was almost out. I did some late-night crunching to try and finish it, but at a certain point, my brain said, "Delay it. Delay it and tell them when it's done, make an announcement," and I did.

After months of work, the video was finished. Only one problem: our internet is slow. I had to restart uploading a few times until it finally uploaded at a reasonable pace. I apologize for saying it would come out this past Friday when it ended up coming out the day after. 

Had I realized upload speeds would be so slow, I would have had it uploading late Thursday afternoon, that way it'd be almost finished the following Friday morning.

Final Thoughts

Making a video on the history of a video game franchise is no easy task. It requires a lot of planning, writing, revising, and more. This project was a huge test of skill and though it had its challenges, I pulled through and got it done. I had my doubts and concerns, but I'm relieved it's doing well.

However, I'm not going to rest my laurels on this video.

I'm going to keep making videos and pushing myself as a content creator. I have a few ideas in mind for what next year's documentary will be, and I'm taking the lessons I learned from this project and applying it not just to next year's project, but the rest of the videos I make this year and beyond.

Again, thanks for your support. Seeing you guy's enthusiasm on here, the DAH Discord servers, and other places like Twitter and Facebook are what kept me going and ensuring I saw this to the end.

Sincerely,

William Lowery

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Minority Report: Everybody Runs - Everybody Ragdolls

 

Introduction

In the distant past of the early 2000's, it was common for a big budget movie to receive a tie-in game.  These were made to drum up excitement and sell merchandise.  Love the movie?  Then play the game and experience the movie again in digital form!

However, most movie games were the equivalent of unbuttered toast.  Serviceable but bland.  Some were like buttered toast, tasty and enjoyable.  Others were like burnt toast, charred, tasteless, and better off in the garbage.

This leads to this review's subject, Minority Report: Everybody Runs.  Based on the film starring Tom Cruise, which in of itself was based on a Philip K. Dick short story, Minority Report is set in a world where a special branch of law enforcement arrests crooks before they even commit a crime.

Development duties were handled by Treyarch, the same studio responsible for the Sam Raimi Spider-Man games and every Call of Duty not made by Infinity Ward or Sledgehammer.  Seeing how Spider-Man 2 is the hot, buttered toast of movie licensed games, Minority Report: Everybody Runs could very much be the same...or not.  Let's find out.

Story Synopsis

Set in the distant future of 2054, you play as John Anderton, captain of PreCrime.  PreCrime's job is to arrest perps before they commit a crime.  They're able to do this using PreCogs, genetically modified humans who can predict the future.  Because of PreCrime, the national crime rate has plunged.

After thwarting an attempted murder, Anderton returns to HQ only to discover something shocking.  The PreCogs show him killing an unknown man.  Confused and about to be arrested, Anderton flees HQ in search of answers.  He eventually discovers that this vision is a minority report, meaning it's an outcome not all the PreCogs agree on.

Story, Writing, and Characters

Minority Report: Everybody Runs has an intriguing premise, but the game doesn't make the most of it.  The game makes the classic mistake of assuming you have seen the movie and know what's going on.  If you haven't, then 85 percent of the plot won't make sense.  I understood the basic gist of the story, but the game's choppy pacing made it hard to keep track.

Characters come and go, there are sudden shifts in location from one scene to the next, and much of the film's nuance is lost in adaptation.  I like the idea of free will vs. determinism, but Everybody Runs doesn't slow down to explore its themes.  It's more concerned with getting to the next level so the player doesn't fall asleep.

Don't mind him, he's hanging out.

The video game emphasizes action, which is fine, but it creates a disconnect between cut-scenes and gameplay.  During cut-scenes, Anderton is trying to prove his innocence, but it's hard to sympathize when in the previous level, he was chucking cops off skyscrapers.  By the end, I'm pretty sure Anderton lowered Pre-Crime's employment by 70 percent.

This game may be subtitled Everybody Runs, but it should be Everybody Murders.  Anderton seems to take joy dispatching everyone he crosses paths with, especially the FBI agents sent to monitor his behavior.  Minority Report: Everybody Dies takes an engaging sci-fi thriller and turns it into a schlocky action fest.

Gameplay

There's a wrong way and a right way to play Minority Report: Everybody Runs.  If you play it the wrong way, it's a mediocre brawler with clunky controls and difficulty spikes.  If you play it the right way, it's a hilarious physics simulator that rivals the likes of Goat Simulator and Saints Row.

Minority Report is a brawler.  Over the game's 40 levels, John Anderton punches, kicks, and throws his way to uncovering the conspiracy.  Every now and then, Anderton gets his hands on guns, or a jetpack for some flying.  The tutorial stages teach the player the basics before the story mode lets you off the leash.

Initially, the combat isn't half bad.  There's a surprisingly large move-list, along with several techniques to unlock via the black market.  When an enemy is dazed, Anderton can grab them.  You can then either lay some extra blows, chuck them into the scenery, or throw them off a balcony.  Throwing enemies is the easiest way to dispatch foes; not to mention, incredibly satisfying.

The main enemy is PreCrime.  Occasionally, Anderton fights street thugs or robots, but for most of the campaign, it's the boys in blue.  Some cops are armed with stun sticks, some are armed with guns, and some deploy tiny robots that can swarm the player or explode.  There's also the occasional mall security guard, but these guys are no problem for dime-store Anderson Cooper.

Everybody runs in Everybody Runs.

When Anderton's fists get him nowhere, there are guns.  Weapons include machine guns, shotguns, an energy rifle, a grenade launcher, and a launcher that fires swarms of tiny missiles.  My personal favorite is the puke grenade, which stuns enemies and makes them puke their guts out.

Searching each level for secrets rewards you with money, weapons, or health.  The game encourages you to destroy everything in sight and it's surprising how much destructibility there is.  This only adds to the chaotic nature of the gameplay as you try breaking as much stuff as possible.

On paper, Minority Report: Everybody Brawls doesn't sound bad.  In execution, it's equal parts clunky and frustrating.  Despite the wide assortment of moves at your disposal, the basic punches and kicks are the most effective attacks.  Trying any combos will get Anderton knocked off his feet.

Fighting is more manageable when it's only a few foes, but levels frequently pit you against large groups of enemies where the only choice is to give them the runaround.  Successfully winning fights doesn't come from skill, but from running circles like a headless chicken and stopping to curb stomp dudes in the family jewels.

You have guns, but the game discourages you from using them because ammo is limited.  It's best to save your ammo for enemies with guns.  If you don't take them out first, they will quickly whittle away your health with their bullets.  Most of your deaths are the result of being unable to take on all the enemies the game throws at you.

When the going gets tough, the black market supplies Anderton with weapons, supplies, and upgrades.  Annoyingly, there's a limit on each item, and once it's gone, it's gone.  I knew the black market was shady, but I didn't know they were stingy.

He may claim he's innocent, but the fact he uses cops as meat shields shows otherwise.

Variety is limited in Minority Report: Everybody Quits.  Every mission is the same, kill all enemies, kill all enemies, k i l l a l l e n e m i e s.  The game gets repetitive fast, and the choppy pacing means some levels may take ten minutes to beat, while others take less than a minute.  It gets boring and with how cheap the difficulty is, I'm not afraid to admit I used cheat codes.

I'm not usually one to use cheat codes, but this was an instance where I felt it was justified.

The level design is straightforward, but there are times when it's unclear where you are supposed to go.  A good example is a mission set in the Sprawl, a rundown section of the city.  Anderton needs to find the exit, but it doesn't clearly explain where the exit is.  That's not the problem, the problem is the level design makes it hard to tell what's safe to climb and what isn't.

I spent at least five minutes running around, murdering cops and bums alike, until I looked up that you're supposed to shimmy across some ledges to reach a window.

Minority Report is at its best during the jetpack stages.  Flying is surprisingly smooth and it's fun to plow into cops.  It's just a shame the jetpack is severely underutilized.  I would have loved for some levels where you're flying through the city streets, evading the police while trying to reach a safe zone.

Boss fights aren't the best.  They're either too easy, or surprisingly frustrating.  The second fight against Moseley is especially annoying because he has a sweep kick that insta-kills Anderton.

Breaking the Game

Now, I mentioned there's a wrong way and a right way to play this game.  The wrong way is playing the game as is.  The right way is when you activate the cheat codes, which turns Minority Report from something forgettable into something special.

I laughed my ass off as Anderton crashed into furniture, flew around as a zombie, and beat the final boss senseless with a baseball bat.  The cheat codes turn Minority Report into one of the most hilarious games ever made.  Real life bogging you down?  Play Minority Report and watch a dude turn the bodies of other dudes into his own Katamari ball.  With the press of a button, watch as Anderton Cooper careens into patio furniture.


For all its faults, of which there are many, Minority Report is not short on entertainment.

Visuals and Sound

Graphically, the game looks okay.  Characters and locations get the job done, and there's an impressive amount of destructibility.  Glass shatters, furniture breaks, and rocks split in half after meeting the wrath of Anderton's fists.  Plus, the ragdoll is truly amazing.

Tom Cruise didn't voice Mr. Anderton or provide his likeness, hence why he looks like that CNN guy and has the voice of Mr. Krabs.  Clancy Brown does a decent job with what's he's given.  Clancy makes the character a cocky hotshot unfazed by what's going on and not afraid to crack a one-liner or two.  The rest of the voice acting is serviceable, and its hilarious enemies shout "I'm falling!" as you throw them to their deaths.

Remember, this is a T-rated game that lets you chuck guys off rooftops like nobody's business.

Final Verdict

Minority Report: Everybody Runs meets all the hallmarks of a typical movie licensed game.  Flimsy storytelling?  Check.  Clunky gameplay?  Check.  Controller breaking difficulty spikes?  Check.  It doesn't delve into any of the ideas the film posits, nor are the characters anything but forgettable.

The gameplay shows promise with its fisticuffs and jetpacks, but the moment-to-moment action is unsatisfying.  Nothing says fun like being unable to pull off combos and defend yourself against simple hoodlums.  Playing through the 40 levels felt like a chore, not helped by the game's messy pacing.  It may only take four to five hours, but it's a long four to five hours.

However, once the cheat codes are activated, the gloves are off.  What was once plain and forgettable becomes entertaining and cathartic.  If you don't try out the cheats, you're missing out on what makes Minority Report so enjoyable.

Minority Report: Everybody Runs is like unbuttered toast.  You're eating it and it's alright, but it could be better.  You add some jelly and then it becomes tastier.  This game may be a 5/10, but it's a delicious 5/10.

Final Score: 5/10