Obsidian article by Al Giovetti


Obsidian
by Al Giovetti
Preview, 10/01/96
Review
Price: $50
Genre: graphic adventure
Format: PC and Mac
Release: October 1996
Developer: Rocket Science
Creator: Scott Kim
Producer: Matthew Fassberg
Publisher: Sega Soft
Phone: 888-SEGASOFT, 415-802-4400
Website: http://www.rocketsci.com/bunker/obsidian/obsidian.html, www.segasoft.com
Requirements: Pentium, 90 MHz, Windows 95, 2MB VRAM, 16-bit graphics card, SoundBlaster 16-bit compatible, 4X CD ROM, 16 MB RAM, 17 MB hard drive space, mouse, Sound Blaster

History: We filmed producer Matthew Fassberg at Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles and discussed this game's lack of an automap, autotravel system, and auto note taking. Shortly thereafter at the Software Publisher's Association meeting in Atlanta, Johnny Wilson, the editor in chief of Computer Gaming World and I discussed these things. Whereas the makers of Obsidian felt that this track based ultra realistic Myst and 7th Guest clone did not need these things, the journalists know better and the public demands these things in their games. We will see how the final game is released.

Company line: It is the year 2066. Pollution has rendered the planet barely liveable. A crack team of scientists has created and launched a satellite called the Ceres Project. Onboard Ceres is a the world's first practical application of nanotechnology. The nanotech system detects hot-spots in the atmosphere and sends cellular-sized robots to interact with the toxins and neutralize them.

You are Lilah. Along with your partner, Max, you have led the Ceres development team. Now, after Ceres has completed a hundred successful days in orbit, it's time for a vacation - or so you think. You're relaxing in one of the world's last true wilderness areas... until something impossible happens.

Near your campsite, you and Max discover a small black crystal. No big deal... until the crystal begins to grow. In just a few days, it reaches hundreds of feet into the sky. Awestruck, you code-name the monolith... "Obsidian."

Soon, finding yourself inside Obsidian, you must leave behind all rational expectation. This is a world of dreams - beginning with your own. Nothing behaves according to physical law. It's mesmerizing, fantastic. But as the story progresses, from dream to dream, you realize that Max is in grave danger. And not just Max, either, but everything you know and love.

Plot: The obsidian is a giant antediluvian structure that mysteriously appeared in the middle of a rain forest just about the time your fiend Max disappears. You play Lilah and in order to save Max, you enter the obsidian. While searching the obsidian you encounter four different fantasy worlds. Using a female protagonist is a rare occurrance in games.

Encounters with the bit robots will help you define your goals in the game. Other encounters include those with the mysterious, psychotic and paranoid rebellion representatives. You explore the innards of a spider in the world of Abraxas and a world of disorientation and physical puzzles where normal laws of physics do not apply. Figuring out how to get to the ceiling from the floor is one of the puzzles from disorientation land.

Interface: First person perspective adventure with unique aspects such as walls and ceilings that, once you know the way, can be walked upon and explored. The ceilings and walls of some rooms become the floors of others. Talking television screens found throughout the game provide many of the clues needed to solve the game.

Graphics: Dark and forbidding landscapes with craggy trees from Hellís Bonzai collection all crafted in 3D. The 640x480 pixel resolution images were SoftImage-rendered with mToon proprietary sprite format forthe moving objects. Obsidian is beautiful because it is composed of over 100,000 polygons, 10,000 frames, and six camera angles. An anoying requirement is that you change the display to 16-bit color manually if not already set there.

Animations: The animations are slick and sophisticated with the SoftImage rendering and mToon sprites. The QuickTime movies make up most of the moving objects and puzzles.

Music and Sound Effects: The music was composed and sound effects were created bu Thomas Dolby and Headspace. The result is a new age soundtrack which in many respects stands in direct contrast to the game. Both the music and sound are ambient and play a part in some of the puzzles in the game.

Game play: The game play is composed of walking on ceilings and walls, wandering around in a beautiful but ultimately slow and confusing world where you watch the beauty scroll by endlessly. Withou automapping or autotravel you are doomed to repeat yourself over and over again meaninglessly.

Puzzles: word puzzles and problems involving space and physics which are related to the plot, not like the Myst or 11th hour type puzzles. The puzzles involve cryptograms, sliding pictures and the like. You need not solve all the puzzles in the game to finish, since the plot is non-linear. There are two difficult and onerous maze sequences in the game. The first puzzle sequence, the Bureau area in the Obsidian is the most annoying puzzle and part of the game.

There are few clues in the game to help you get past the difficult and obscure puzzles. All the clues found in the game are delivered orally by the characters in the game. If your audio has problems, you must repeat the clues over and over again. Good game design demands optional text for orally delivered dialogue. This is just polite for those game players who have hearing difficulties and for those of us who need to hear things over again to understand them better. Some of the best designed games keep a test log of clues which can be printed for review off line.

Internet: The rocket science web site has java enabled cryptograms which are related to the game but not the actual puzzles in the game. Rocket science is giving away caps and other pieces of Rocket Science clothing for solving the puzzles. There is no other multi-player support.

Cheats, Hints, and Walkthroughs: Obsidian Walkthrough

Journalists: Glenn and others point out that Rocket Science entered this industry as the arrogant bad boys that were going to turn it on its end. Well it has been over a year and Rocket Science has not really impressed anyone. Rocket Science has learned a lot in that time, especially that many of the things that make movies do not make games. Other lessons resulted in Rocket Science divesting itself of the tacky full motion video products. Obsidian in many ways is a really interesting product that may have the innovation that Rocket Science promised, but as of this date, has never delivered. Cindy likes the product and feels it is right on the mark.

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References
J. Green, Computer Gaming World, number 146, September, 1996, pg. 41.
Cindy Yans, Computer Games Strategy Plus, issue 71, October, 1996, pg. 40.
Glenn Broderick, Computer Player, volume 3, number 5, October, 1996, pg. 32.
Jason D'Aprile, Computer & Net Player, volume 3, number 11, April, 1997, pg. 72, 80%.
Barry Brenesal, PC Games, volume 4, number 4, April, 1997, pg. 74, 95%.
Bryan Del Rizzo, Boot, volume 2, number 8, April, 1997, pg. 96, 60%.
Petra Schlunk, Computer Gaming World, issue 154, May, 1997, pg. 122 - 124, 80%.
Angela Bennett, PC Gamer, volume 4, number 5, May, 1997, pg. 124, 83%.
Cindy Yans, Computer Games, issue 78, May, 1997, pg. 90, 90%.
Editors, Adrenaline Vault, 80%.
Bob Mandel, Interview with Obsidian Producer Matthew Fassberg

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