Shell be coming round the mountain when she comes
Ten-year old me had a strange idea of what a lemming was. They were pale-skinned little creatures, with a shock of green hair, blue pyjamas and most importantly a determination to tumble off platforms to their doom. As it turned out and it took me a few years to realise lemmings are actually cuddly little guinea-pig-looking things, without the green hair, and they tumble off cliffs because they run out of room, thanks to a habit of over-populating. Frankly, the truth isnt as good as the fiction.
Id gotten this wrong impression thanks to the Amiga classic Lemmings, released in February of 1991. And what a game it was, putting you in the position of lemming-wrangler, god, or whatever you were. Lemmings would tumble out of a trapdoor in their dozens, and then automatically walk around, most often to their doom. You would assign them jobs by clicking on them, turning them into Blockers (to just keep them still, goddammit), Diggers were used to dig vertically down, Floaters to parachute down, and many, many more. By using your limited number of jobs wisely, you could navigate the lemmings to the door and freedom.
Lemmings was also home to perhaps the greatest game mechanic of all time: the Nuke feature, which would explode all of your lemmings because the level had become uncompletable (or because you were feeling particularly sadistic).
Its hard to overstate just how different Lemmings felt at the time. Its no secret that games were rock-hard back then: I could barely count the number of games I had completed on my keyboard-weathered fingers. But they were most often hard in a variety of unfair ways, limiting your lives, or tossing a ridiculous number of enemies at you, because game designers didnt have the ability or tools to tweak things like AI. You didnt complete most games: you simply beat another persons score, or got further than they did.
In Lemmings, suddenly I found myself pitted against something that was difficult, but in a problem-solving sense. There were answers, and those answers were within my grasp, if I could only wrap my head around the right permutation of jobs, and which lemming to use them on. The closest I had come to pitting my wits against a computer game was Battle Chess, but that felt like playing a robot. In Lemmings, I felt like I was being challenged by the game designers.
As it turns out, there was a fantastic spirit of competition behind the scenes at DMA Design and Psygnosis. Designers would challenge each other to beat their levels, and the most fiendish made it into the final cut. An external team would QA their levels, and solutions would come back as faxes, with scribbles annotating the best path to the exit. Just as DMA designers were trying to unravel each others puzzles, ten-year old me was trying to unravel them too.
This all implies that Lemmings was fiendish, but I believe its one of the best examples of a difficulty curve in gaming. Its one of my go-to examples, alongside Plants vs. Zombies and Super Mario Bros.: each level is incrementally more difficult than the last, with a new job being introduced periodically, and the number of jobs per level increasing slightly too. Lemmings superbly guided you through a concept that could have been overwhelming.
Its easy to forget how revelatory this concept was too. Its only through researching this article that Ive realised that Lemmings preceded games like Command & Conquer, Warcraft, Dune II and other real-time strategy games. Lemmings gave you automated NPCs and then offered you indirect control over them, allowing you to assign commands when you desired them to do something else. Blizzard Entertainment developer Bob Fitch has gone on record to say that Lemmings was a huge influence, as the indirect control scheme gave them the idea of a continuous flow of troops, controlled through occasional commands. Helping to birth the RTS genre is an impressive legacy.
When I think of Lemmings, I also think about the many ridiculous consoles and computers I played it on. I remember owning a port of the game on the Nintendo Gameboy, which was a wild waste of pocket money. There was no way that this fiddly little puzzler, requiring real precision, would ever have worked on the portable little green goblin, and so it proved. I dont think Ive squinted so much in my life, and it soon got yanked out of the slot and replaced by Tetris. I had a surprisingly decent version on the Atari Lynx, and an anachronistic version on the PS1, where the sad realisation hit that Lemmings was starting to feel old.
Lemmings hasnt survived in the same manner as many of its peers. I think primarily of Worms, which has lived a longer and fuller life. Perhaps its the perfection of the original Lemmings, which doesnt give much wiggle-room for improvement. Perhaps its the lack of multiplayer and party appeal, which left it too firmly in the single player camp. Or perhaps its the commitment it demands from the player, expecting nothing less than high levels of precision, brainpower and timing.
Regardless, for a period of a few years, Lemmings burned brightly. In 1991 alone, we got Lemmings, Oh No! More Lemmings, and Lemmings: The Christmas Levels, and the game was ported to systems that have long-since escaped peoples memories (bless you, CDi and CDTV), along with a 2013 Windows 8 version for PC which is still available from the Microsoft Store. It sold 20 million copies, and remains a favourite for fuddy-duddies like me, who will tell you that they dont make them like this anymore, and Starcraft wouldnt exist if it werent for Lemmings.
Just nod and shuffle us along to the exit. I think Ive got some blue pyjamas somewhere.
Read more from the original source:
- Tactics - for fun and to improve - Chessbase News - July 25th, 2021
- I Expect You to Die 2 preview: The spy with the golden eye for puzzles - Android Central - July 25th, 2021
- Dr's Casebook: Keeping your brain active really does delay Alzheimers - Batley and Birstall News - July 25th, 2021
- Tetragon Will Be Released On PC & Console Mid-August - Bleeding Cool News - July 25th, 2021
- SwitchArcade Round-Up: 'Freddy Spaghetti 2', 'Gaps by POWGI', '112 Operator', and Today's Other New Releases and Sales - Touch Arcade - July 25th, 2021
- Programs with the Medfield Library, week of July 9-15 - Wicked Local - July 10th, 2021
- Fifty years of The Spectator crossword - Spectator.co.uk - July 10th, 2021
- Sea of Thieves A Pirate's Life Tall Tale Journal Locations Guide - SegmentNext - June 28th, 2021
- Silver Blade Key Sea Of Thieves - How To Make The Water Rise - GosuNoob.com - June 28th, 2021
- 13 Ways You're Ruining Your Body After 60, Say Experts | Eat This Not That - Eat This, Not That - June 28th, 2021
- SwitchArcade Round-Up: Reviews Featuring 'Mighty Goose' and More, Plus the Latest Releases and Sales - Touch Arcade - June 11th, 2021
- Criminal justice reform: Innovative RI program seeks to break cycle of incarceration - The Providence Journal - May 30th, 2021
- Game Over - The New York Times - May 30th, 2021
- Programs with the Medfield Library, week of May 28-June 4 - Wicked Local - May 30th, 2021
- Starsand Is Headed To Steam Early Access In Q4 2021 - Bleeding Cool News - May 30th, 2021
- Trove Is Finally Getting Released On Nintendo Switch Bleeding Cool News - Bleeding Cool News - May 30th, 2021
- Chess Knights: Shinobi Is Making Its Move On Switch Soon - Nintendo Life - May 18th, 2021
- SwitchArcade Round-Up: 'Subnautica + Subnautica: Below Zero' Review, Today's New Releases, and the Latest Sales - Touch Arcade - May 18th, 2021
- International Day of Families: 6 Ways to build a blissful relationship with your family amid COVID 19 crisis - PINKVILLA - May 18th, 2021
- A psychologist says parents of 'exceptionally resilient and successful' kids always do these 7 things: 'Yes, some are a little intense' - CNBC - May 18th, 2021
- Science of Guinness World Records - The Dallas Morning News - May 5th, 2021
- Exclusive: Decoding MPL's secondary transaction and shareholding pattern - Entrackr - May 5th, 2021
- SwitchArcade Round-Up: Reviews Featuring 'R-Type Final 2', 'Smelter', and More, Plus the Latest Releases and Sales - Touch Arcade - May 5th, 2021
- Garry Kasparov launches chess gaming platform with lessons from experts and 50,000 puzzles - Game World Observer - April 21st, 2021
- A Guide To Mindfulness: Why You Need To Start Training Your Mind (And How You Can Begin) - Entrepreneur - April 21st, 2021
- 33 Things To Help You Pick Up A New Hobby This Spring - BuzzFeed - April 21st, 2021
- An Analysis of the Mechanics and Narrative of Superliminal - Gamasutra - April 21st, 2021
- Artificial Intelligence: Unseating the Inevitability Narrative - Discovery Institute - April 21st, 2021
- Puzzle Bobble VR: Vacation Odyssey Receives A Release Date - Bleeding Cool News - April 21st, 2021
- A Week at the Library of the Chathams Monday, April 5 Sunday, April 11, 2021 - TAPinto.net - April 5th, 2021
- SwitchArcade Round-Up: 'Dungeon & Puzzles', 'Stick Fight: The Game', and Today's Other New Releases and Sales - Touch Arcade - April 5th, 2021
- It Takes Two review: This is how it runs on PC - Laptop Mag - April 5th, 2021
- A glimpse to the future: Song and guitar gets OHCHS senior through pandemic - Lewiston Sun Journal - April 5th, 2021
- Bengal hues, blues - The Tribune India - April 5th, 2021
- Resident Evil 2: Everything You Didnt Know About The 2nd Run - TheGamer - March 9th, 2021
- Pillars of Active Aging - Old School Puzzles And Games To Promote Active Aging Brain Health - LNP | LancasterOnline - March 9th, 2021
- We Were Here Too Review (PS4) - A Solid Sequel And The Best Showcase Of The Series' Unique Mechanics - PlayStation Universe - March 9th, 2021
- Little Nightmares 2: Every Puzzle In The School And How To Solve Each One Of Them - TheGamer - March 9th, 2021
- Chess Puzzles | The Chess Website - March 9th, 2021
- Video Game Review: Fights In Tight Spaces Gives John Wick Action With Deck Building Strategy - Patch.com - March 9th, 2021
- How to Solve The Chess Puzzle in Little Nightmares 2 - Screen Rant - February 20th, 2021
- Soapbox: We Were Here, the Free PS4 Game No One Will Play with Me - Push Square - February 17th, 2021
- The First 10 Games Released On The PS2 (In Chronological Order) - TheGamer - February 17th, 2021
- 6 virtual team building ideas for when you're sick of Zoom - Fast Company - February 17th, 2021
- Evil aspidistras and Noel Edmonds - how an obscure quiz show helped shape gaming in the 80s - Eurogamer.net - February 15th, 2021
- Love in the time of COVID-19 in Santa Fe - Santa Fe New Mexican - February 15th, 2021
- Little Nightmares 2 secret ending: Where to find the glitching remains? - Republic TV - February 15th, 2021
- Thorny Puzzle Title Room To Grow Is Coming To PC This Month - Bleeding Cool News - February 15th, 2021
- Little Nightmares 2 School walkthrough: Heres how to complete the puzzle - Republic TV - February 15th, 2021
- Co-op puzzler We Were Here is available on PS4 for free now - PlayStation.Blog - February 12th, 2021
- Little Nightmares 2: How to Solve the Chess Puzzle - Twinfinite - February 12th, 2021
- Downingtown East student develops state-of-the-art chess guidebook - Daily Local News - February 12th, 2021
- 7 Ways to Ensure Better Mental Health as an Entrepreneur in 2021 - Influencive - February 6th, 2021
- Out of the Woodwork - www.smileypete.com - February 4th, 2021
- Tactical skills meet RPGs in the wild world of 'Disgaea' - Fairbanks Daily News-Miner - February 3rd, 2021
- Learn more chess strategies and improve your knowledge to win with 'Legal Attack' - StreetInsider.com - February 3rd, 2021
- Mundaun Gets A Behind-The-Scenes Video Showing Development - Bleeding Cool News - February 1st, 2021
- 10 pcs Games To play if you like the table Games - BollyInside - February 1st, 2021
- SwitchArcade Round-Up: 'G-Mode Zanac', 'Bonkies', 'Chill Panda', and Today's Other New Releases and Sales - Touch Arcade - January 30th, 2021
- Castling on iOS the Chess Game you want during lockdown | Invision Game Community - Invision Game Community - January 28th, 2021
- The Girl Who Walked Away - The New York Times - January 28th, 2021
- Making a splash: how Ocean Spray and Chess.com surfed cultural waves to marketing success - The Drum - January 26th, 2021
- Spring Hour Of Chess Week: February 22-26, 2021 - ChessKid.com - chesskid.com - January 26th, 2021
- "When I won, it took a while to sink in" - National Chess Champion Jake Darmanin - Newsbook - January 26th, 2021
- SwitchArcade Round-Up: 'Solas 128', 'Seal Electric Railway', and Today's Other New Releases and Sales - Touch Arcade - January 26th, 2021
- Scarlet Hood & The Wicked Wood Heads To Steam In February - Bleeding Cool News - January 25th, 2021
- Big Brother: The 10 Most Creative Veto Competitions, Ranked - Screen Rant - January 25th, 2021
- I Figured Out How Tall The Sexy Resident Evil Lady Is Because Of Course I Did - Kotaku - January 25th, 2021
- Meet the Puzzle Makers of New York Times Games - The New York Times - January 23rd, 2021
- Wonder what the best-selling tabletop games are? - ABC10.com KXTV - January 23rd, 2021
- Crislip: Why older adults should set New Year's resolutions and goals - Your Valley - January 23rd, 2021
- SwitchArcade Round-Up: 'Colorful Colore', 'Timothy & the Mysterious Forest', and Today's Other New Releases and Sales - Touch Arcade - January 23rd, 2021
- Neko Ghost, Jump! Is Headed To PC & Consoles, No Word Of Atari VCS - Bleeding Cool News - January 20th, 2021
- AI can solve Rubik's cubeand tell us how it did it. - Fast Company - January 20th, 2021
- Silver Chains Is Headed To Console On January 29th - Bleeding Cool News - January 20th, 2021
- Monstrum 2 Enters Steam Early Access This Month - Bleeding Cool News - January 15th, 2021
- Top 5 Chess streamers to watch on Twitch in 2021 - Daily Esports - January 15th, 2021
- Whats on TV This Week: President Joe Biden's inauguration - Los Angeles Times - January 15th, 2021
- The best games to play with friends over Zoom, from Psych to Heads Up - The Independent - January 15th, 2021
- Terry Winston Wilson Obituary - Lynchburg, VA | The News & Advance - Legacy.com - January 13th, 2021