Friday, December 16, 2011

Letting go of an old friend

Silicon Knights - the old friend who did one or two cool things and nothing since, but instead of trying to recapture that fleeting moment of greatness all he does is talk about the old times and be generally obnoxious and pathetic.

You first met Mr. Silicon Knights when he put out the very first Blood Omen, home to of the greatest villains/heroes in a game series that has yet to get a worthy finale (from any game company). The he will never admit it, you think that Kain's voice came first and his character came second, but that doesn't matter. Yes, Blood Omen was just a Zelda clone, right down to the annoying over world map and backtracking with newly gained weapons, but it was grimdark before it was fashionable to be grimdark. The series left Silicon Knights long enough to produce some stellar titles and a few terrible ones, including that whiny bitch Raziel, and it never came back. This was not the highlight of his career, but it was certainly an unexpected early success, the very thing that haughty beatniks point to when they says that they knew about before they were cool (and before they weren't cool again).

It took six years for Silicon Knights to put something out again. Sure, he said that he was working on something, that it was supposed to be on one piece of hardware and then there was a generational leap and they had to start over, but you never believed them. Then out of nowhere he drops Eternal Darkness on the Gamecube, of all things, and no one quite believes that he did it. Eternal Darkness would be in rare company regardless of quality, being a third part exclusive title on a Nintendo platform, but it being excellent from top to  bottom brought up even more questions. 'You did this all by yourself?' you remember asking him over beers one night. He just smiled an nodded, noting that it was only going to get better from here. Almost immediately people began to scream for a sequel, something that he promised (and has been promising) for years and never got around to doing. Years later he admitted that he had caught lightning in a bottle and did not think he would be able to do it again.

Still on the Gamecube, he released a remake of Metal Gear Solid two years later. It was generally well received, but there was more than a little help from Konami; Kojima's spies were everywhere. It only took two years to do and it kept his name in the spotlight, so Silicon Knights did not complain. He took the money and poured it all into a game that he swore was going to be his masterpiece. This was a game, just like Eternal Darkness, that had it origins on older hardware. He swore that the next generation of hardware would finally have what it takes to bring his vision to life. So you waited, along with everyone else, for him to get this out of system to he could make the game that everyone actually wanted.

Four years latter Too Human came out. Silicon Knights put it out with all the hoopla it could muster, but the game itself just wasn't very good. It was clear that it was intended to be a loot heavy action RPG, but the combat itself wasn't very fun, and while parts of it looked very good other areas were so ugly that you wondered if bit from the previous versions were just literally dumped over to save time. The reception seemed to surprise Silicon Knights, and he spent far too much time refuting poor reviews and the poorer retail reception. 'You have no idea how good this is, just play it for a little longer' he would say. No one did. 'Don't you remember me, I did Eternal Darkness! If you buy this I will have the money to make another one of those!'

Still, no one did, and Silicon Knights never recovered.

You didn't see him for several years, and when you did here from him it was a short note reminding you of all the good times you had had it the past (with no mention of Too Human). It was kind of pathetic, really, but there was no way to help him. Silicon Knights had become almost delusional, to the point where he thought taking on an X-Men licensed project seemed like a good idea. 'It has a built in audience!' one of his last emails said, 'and I will put in all the cool shit that all the other cool RPG's have! There will be choices that affect the plot, choices about powers, you will be up to your ears to choices!'

The game came out and no one noticed, not that they should have. You played through it out of courtesy to an old friend, but even you could not sugar coat your reaction. It was terrible, and it was your job to tell him so. That may have been the last straw, and you doubt you will see Mr. Silicon Knights again. After your firm but harsh reaction he just walked away, head hung low. You could see that he knew it was terrible and was just hoping you didn't notice. It's for the best, you tell yourself, his time is past.

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