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8 July 2013

Superman 64: Before The Disaster

Here at GameToAid, we have a bit of an obsession with Superman 64, one of the most disappointing games of all time. We played it for the first time in the Worst Marathon Ever, and then once more in The Superhero Marathon. And we're playing it again in the Worst Marathon Ever II, beginning this weekend, because it's just so damn bad.

However, there's actually a lot more to Superman 64 than meets the eye.

You might recall that in The Superhero Marathon, we flew through over 35,000 rings. The funny thing is, the abundance of ring-flying was never meant to be in the game! In fact, the Superman 64 beta was arguably much better than the final version that was released.

Too Good for the 64

Below we can see some very early screenshots of Superman 64. You'll notice that they actually look pretty damn good. None of the fog that plagues the final version is to be seen, and the lighting effects are impressive.

Not surprisingly though, these screenshots are most likely pre-rendered – the 64 wouldn't be able to handle graphics and lighting like this. This is just one indicator that Titus was overly ambitious with what they wanted to do.

Beta or Better?

Let's take a look at what the beta version of Superman 64 was like. Rareware Central were lucky enough to get their hands dirty with it, and posted this video. They say that this was 14-20 months before release.

The first thing you'll notice is the 3D Titus logo that looks like it's having a seizure. Poor thing.

Rather than some crazy "virtual world" plotline, the game begins with a simple mission. The objectives are displayed on-screen: Superman must rescue the ambulance. Once he's done that, you instantly see what your next objective is. That's one handy feature that was never in the final release. And from the very beginning, Superman gets to use his awesome laser vision. Nifty!

Although you can't experience it for yourself, apparently the controls are near-perfect. Rareware Central writes in a YouTube comment:

The controls are pretty much perfect in this version. I don't know if they had some clueless person rewrite the script for the controls or not but they sure changed a lot. If you pay attention to the flying on the first stage then I'm sure you'll notice that Superman reverts once I let go of the moving. Meaning that the moving is not very sensitive.

The second mission is actually one of the last missions in the retail version. Again, the game actually tells you what your objectives are, which makes the confusing level at least bearable.

The next mission looks pretty fun as well, featuring robot rhinos and mid-air combat moves, both of which were omitted in the final version. The one after was also one of the later missions in the original, but the objectives seem to be much more straightforward (to the point where you could actually work it out without a walkthrough.) Those box-carrying physics don't look too sharp, though...

Most importantly of all, there are NO RINGS!

License to Kill

So what happened between this early version and the one that was released? How did things go so horribly wrong?

All is revealed in Proton Jon's interview with Eric Caen, the co-founder of Titus Interactive:

Jon: Superman 64 was the first 3D action/adventure game that Titus worked on, as your prior 3D releases were racing and chess games.  Do you feel that this hindered development?
Eric: The main issue was working with the licensor. They caused us so much trouble. Also our design originally was too ambitious compared to what an N64 was able to deliver…

As we saw in the earlier screenshots, it looks like Titus wanted more than they could get from the N64. However, the real disaster struck with what seems like some messed-up politics between Titus and the Superman licensor, Warner Bros. Further questions reveal some interesting details:

Jon: Where did the idea of Superman going into a virtual world to save his friends come from?
Eric: Political reasons, as the licensor refused to let Superman kick “real” people…

Jon: Why was the decision made to limit the use of Superman’s powers in the game when that is one of the primary draws of the character?
Eric: Again, it wasn’t our decision

Jon: What took up the most development time?
Eric: Politics!!! Approval process!

Jon: Was the release date a mandated thing, or did the team just want to release the product to the public as soon as possible?
Eric: We missed the original marketing date by 6 months, mostly because we had to do the same things again and again for political reason.

Jon: Did Superman 64 turn out to be near what your team had envisioned at the start, or was the finished product sidetracked by hardware or other limitations?
Eric: Of course not. It is not even 10% of what we intended to do, but the licensor killed us!

Considering how rushed the final retail version feels, it wouldn't be far-fetched to guess that Warner Bros forced Titus to remake the game a month before release.

Funnily enough, even Eric may never have completed the whole game.

Jon: Have you personally beaten Superman 64?
Eric: I don’t remember if I completed it, but I played it again & again during the two years of its development.

Wasted Money

Despite its flaws, Superman 64 was an immensely profitable game for Titus; it was a top seller in North America in June 1999.

Soon after, Titus decided to have another go and completely remake the game for the PlayStation 1. It seems that Titus learnt from their mistakes and were well on their way to actually creating a really good-looking game. Take a look:

During development, Titus' license with Warner Bros. ran out – and they knew it, but they continued development anyway with hope that the completed game would win Warner Bros. over. Unfortunately, after the disaster on the Nintendo 64, Warner Bros. did not reissue the license. Consequently, the game was never released and all of the time and money spent developing it was wasted.

Sources: Rareware Central, Unseen 64, Proton Jon


The Worst Marathon Ever II begins this weekend. Join us in our struggle through some of the worst games ever created – including Superman 64, of course – and help us raise funds for charity: water! Learn more »

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2 June 2013

Worse Than Worst

It's been over two years since the Worst Marathon Ever. Starting July 12, we'll be hosting a marathon that's even worse.

Introducing the Worst Marathon Ever II. We'll be broadcasting our struggle through some of the worst games released in history — an even more extensive list than last time. The goal is to raise money and awareness for charity: water, a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations.

For more information, check out the marathon page.

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15 January 2013

Dawn Of A New Day

It is day two of the post-Apocalyptathonic era. Against all odds, the world survived the Apocalyptathon – but not without serious devastation. Millions of children in developing countries are without proper education, unable to help themselves out of poverty.

Luckily, Free The Children is here to help – and you guys have all shown you are right behind them. You donated $6,715 to Free The Children over the weekend, and it will go a long way towards building a schoolhouse in a place which we'll let you decide.

Before we get to that, though – more than ever, we can't thank you enough for your support during the marathon! Especially with our poor marathon scheduling which resulted in us being slightly overshadowed by Awesome Games Done Quick, you guys stuck with us and made the marathon a success. Seriously, you're awesome!

A huge thanks to Twitch.tv, Mashable, and all the other sites that helped us with exposure during the marathon.

72 hours

It certainly was an interesting 72 hours. The apocalypse almost happened early when tech issues plagued the beginning of the Apocalyptathon. We were hopelessly dropping frames for a while, and then our trusty viewers worked out a way to break the polls before we eventually got things smoothed out. Toby's "moderately hasteful" Majora's Mask run demonstrated why you shouldn't try to glitch through the first half of a game and then complete the second half legitimately.

George's creation of the GameToAid rap and the new money polls feature stimuated the high point of the marathon – over $1,000 of donations within an hour. We went through a hat craze, finally made Tim pay, received a bunch of awesome fan art, and raffled off a brand-new Nintendo Wii U. Congratulations to the winner, Ben Baker!

Where should we build that schoolhouse?

But enough reminiscing – let's get back down to business. Despite not reaching our initial $8,500 goal to completely fund a schoolhouse project, the money we raised will still go a long way towards one! Since you guys are the ones who donated, we're going to let you vote on where you'd like to send the funds. Below is some information about the countries in which Free The Children work:

Kenya
  • The average literacy rate in Kenya is 85.1%.
  • 26% of children ages 5 to 14 are involved in child labor.
  • 50% of the population lives below the poverty line with an average annual income of $1,700.
India
  • 34% of India’s population lives on less than $1 a day.
  • Only 50% of secondary school-aged girls and 63% of boys in India are enrolled in secondary school.
  • Children under 14 constitute around 3.6% of the total labor force in India.
Sierra Leone
  • 70% of Sierra Leone’s population lives below the poverty line.
  • Less than half of Sierra Leonean women aged 15 to 24 can read and write.
  • 48% of Sierra Leone’s children aged 5 to 14 are involved in child labor.
Haiti
  • Half of Haiti’s residents live on less than $1 US a day.
  • Following the 2010 earthquake, 3 million people were affected as buildings, homes and hospitals collapsed.
  • The average literacy rate among the population is 52.9%.
Ecuador
  • Almost 40% of Ecuadorians live below the poverty line.
  • There are approximately 400,000 child laborers in Ecuador.
  • 67% of Ecuadorian children finish elementary school.
Rural China
  • About 150 million people in China live on less than $1 a day.
  • China is home to 18% of the world’s poor.
  • 17.7% of students schooled in rural China are able to attend a university.
Nicaragua
  • 50,000 children of primary school level do not attend school.
  • The average number of years Nicaraguan children spend in school is just 4.6.
  • Three-quarters of the Nicaraguan population live on less than $2 a day.
Ghana
  • 53% of the population lives on less than $2 a day.
  • Ghana’s national literacy rate is only 67%.
  • 37% of children in Ghana are engaged in child labour.

Vote in the poll below! There are no right or wrong answers – every option is a good choice. Feel free to discuss your decision in the comments.

Voting is closed on this poll.

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20 December 2012

New Tech For The Apocalyptathon

We've been working hard to make the upcoming Apocalyptathon our best marathon yet. As part of this, we've set up a heap of new tech to increase interactivity and engagement. Let's take a look at what's new.

Donation Referrals

It's understandable that not everyone is able to donate. But that doesn't mean you have to be excluded from all the fun of raising money for charity and winning prizes!

With the new donation referrals system, simply submit your name and email address, and we'll give you a unique donation link. Share this link with your friends on Facebook or Twitter and get them to donate! For every $10 that your friends donate, you get one entry into the raffle. There are also prizes — as well as exposure — for the top referrers. Everyone's a winner! Get your referral link now.

Raffles

Raffles are now drawn automatically, live on-stream every 12 hours. This means that raffles will always happen efficiently and on-time, and you get to watch as the list of potential winners is randomly iterated. Entries ($5 donations / $10 referred donations) are valid for all raffles, so donate early to increase your chances of winning! Check out the prizes up for grabs.

Chance Time Improvements

Perhaps the most exciting tech improvement of all is this: Chance Time is now in 3D. That's right, folks — experience your favourite random-challenge-generator in not one, not two, but three dimensions! The secret Chance Time algorithm has been refined to spit out more wacky, hilarious, and fun challenges than ever before. Who wants to give us a Chance Time before we even start?

Real-Time Voting

Polls have always been a much-loved feature by many GameToAid-ians. We've revamped polls so now you can see the results changing as people vote in real time! You can even go back and change your answer if you change your mind. Look ma, there's a poll open already!

Money Polls

Sometimes people get pretty passionate about things. A whopping 121 people voted in a poll entitled "Who should eat vegemite?" in our recent Zelda marathon.

We thought we'd leverage this — for a good cause, of course. Occasionally, we'll open a Money Poll. It's just like a normal poll, but instead of voting with free votes, you vote with dollars! Select the option you wish to vote for and then donate however many dollars you want to put towards it. Now that's good value!

Backend

We've completely rewritten the systems we use to administrate the GameToAid.org website and the HUD you see on the stream. This will make it considerably easier for us to manage everything, and improved reliability will help keep everything running smoothly.


Overall, we're quite excited to see all of this new tech in action, and you should be too! Look out for some other goodies when you tune in to the Apocalyptathon at 7:30 AM, 10 January 2013 GMT. See you all there!

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