Eurogamer: Nomad Soul Retrospective

By John Walker on March 1st, 2010 at 10:04 am.

Wazza wazza wazza.

This weekend saw my retrospective piece about Omikron: The Nomad Soul arrive on Eurogamer. It was an interesting one – the process I mean – the game being from David Cage was obviously interesting. Trying to get it working on PC ended in sadfaced failure when I discovered ATI has stopped supporting DX6.1. Amazingly, having been commissioned to write the piece and with time running out, I found I owned it on Dreamcast. And that I still owned a Dreamcast. So while this is first and foremost a PC game, my playing of it last week was a brief affair with a (very) old lover. It starts like this:

“David Cage is a man of extraordinary vision. Whether you believe his games match his ambition is a very personal thing. I will argue with you that Fahrenheit is one of the most exciting games I’ve ever played, even though it’s broken in about 657 ways. Perhaps this is what’s most exciting about Quantic Dream’s output. However, I cannot find a similar love for Omikron: The Nomad Soul. And that’s not because I can’t run it on my PC.”

It carries on here.

, , .

35 Comments »

  1. Risingson says:

    It’s a pity that games like The Nomad Soul are considered now Legacy Gaming, when directx was supposed to be a standard thing…

  2. Mman says:

    I remember the free-roaming and exploration was well implemented, along with a lot of interesting ideas . The main issue I recall is the puzzles becoming extremely obscure (and with only one solution, unlike the clever ones mentioned in the article) near the end, to the point where I pretty much constantly needed a walkthrough, that and I found the final boss was so unbalanced I had to turn the difficulty down from hard (which hits harder in a RPG-length game than a ten hour shoot-em-up). Thinking about it, being able to change the difficulty at any time was another idea few games at that time had.

  3. daf says:

    You could probably gotten it to run on a Virtual Machine under VMWare or other similar software, they support DirectX 9 and below as far as I know. I think for “old” games that will soon be the way to go about it :\.

  4. jon_hill987 says:

    I gave up on this game when the FPS bits got harder. There was no way to invert your mouse so when they got harder they were unplayable for me.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Okami says:

    I have fond memories of this game. It was the last month of my stay with our glorious army and I used my pitiful pay in order to buy this game as well as my first bong and a rather large piece of hash. Thusly armed I prepared myself to be sucked into another world. The intro sequence alone blew my drug addled mind. I was like, woaahh, maybe my soul really is trapped in that world

    Only problem was that I didn’t have my own pc back then (my old 486 had stopped working a few years earlier), so I had to play this on my mother’s laptop, which of course didn’t have any kind of 3d accelarator. I spent a weekend in my company’s barracks, stoned to the guts and playing Omikron on 10 frames per second. I remember visiting the Dreamer’s concert and have the band’s performance continue for another five minutes after the audio track had finished playing.

    Of course I never came even close to finishing the thing. But the weekend I spent playing it was very memorable and it gave me at least a glimpse of how immersive 3d gaming could be.

  6. jordanwise says:

    I don’t currently have time to read this, I will do later, but that is David Bowie in that picture isn’t it? Or am I going mad?

  7. Psychopomp says:

    Is that David Bowie?

  8. ZIGS says:

    What I get from this, is that if someone were to remake it, making sure all the gameplay mechanics work as they should, it’d pretty much be the dopest shit ever. Am I correct?

    • Premium User Badge

      AndrewC says:

      Loads of games have already perfected or zoomed past all of the actual gameplay mechanics used in Omichron – so it would still feel a bit dated. But having a Living Breathing City tm is still a fairly exciting prospect. GTA did it visually, Sim City did it abstractly, but having a city you interact with like it was a city, rather than a bunch of activity nodes seperated by geometry, that would be a thing.

      Omichron was way to abstract for me at the time, so I think I only lasted a few hours with it – i’ve no idea how well it achieved that feeling – Maybe it was familiar to Mass Effect with some inventory puzzles – but Walker’s story about the tea is the sort of little thing that is very happy making.

    • Bhazor says:

      You can say the same about Outcast. But you do not need to know what I would do for a gussied up version of that. One which hopefully doesn’t look like a visit to a blob and Vaseline factory from the perspective of a man with cataracts. It won’t

      I guess the time of these massive free form adventure games has gone. Now the accepted standard of graphics means it takes weeks of time and thousands of dollars to render each room.

    • Premium User Badge

      AndrewC says:

      OutcastOutcastOutcast! Bestest ever thing! I even like the way it looks, in a way that I don’t like the way Omichron looks. And I shall tell you why. Yay!

      See: it’s not about graphical fidelity, but about suspension of disbelief. When you try and make the graphics absolutely perfect and photo real, you are saying ‘this is real. This is what the world really looks like’. But there are always shortcomings in the graphics, and this cheapens the world and starts the clock on the game being embarrassing dated.

      This is what I reckon Omichron was doing.

      However, if you don’t go for realism – either by going all stylised, or by acknoweldging the ‘frame’ of the screen and saying ‘this isn’t real, this isn’t what the world really looks like’ – you don’t limit or cheapen what the world can be. And this is, i reckon, what Outcast does (though I’ll admit probably not deliberately). It feels like you are looking at a real and extraordinary world through a piece of rough gauze. If you accept the rough gauze being there, it will become invisible, and you will only see the extraordinary world.

      People who play Dwarf Fortress for a long time often report similar things.

      Equally, a film of a stage play was projected onto a screen on the very stage the play was filmed on. The audience wondered why they were watching a film of a stage play. However, when they put a gauze between the screen and the audience, the audience just thought they were watching the play – they suspended disbelief, they accepted the world.

      Conclusion: I dunno, but Outcast was awesome.

  9. Nick says:

    Well, it says ‘Wazza wazza wazza’ in the alt txt, so I think its safe to say that it is Bowie =)

  10. Javier-de-Ass says:

    yes. david bowie is in the game

  11. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    This. This is proper lovely.

    Spent many an hour with Omikron. Nowadays it’s a game that seemed to pass many people by: of all my co-workers, whose job concerns knowing quite a bit about videogames, only one knows, played and shares my enthusiasm for the game. Of acquaintances and friends of mine (as much as you can call a friend people you never saw and people who have totally opposite gaming tastes), it’s a whisp of a thing they never quite payed attention to.

    Screw Heavy Rain in the face, this was A Good Videogame(tm).

  12. Ian says:

    I never played this one, but I remember really wanting to at the time. It was probably the Dreamcast version I was after as well.

  13. LewieP says:

    DREAMCAST TO THE RESCUE.

  14. Shadowcat says:

    Omikron was simply fantastic, save for the final boss (which I managed to defeat thanks only to a freak bug that actually prevented it from attacking me), and the first-person sections (which started out as an awkward-but-acceptable diversion, but rapidly descended into infuriating awfulness). Oh, and the god-awful central storyline concept (but thankfully that doesn’t raise its grotesque head very often). And the inventory interface. And… and..

    Fortunately, the good far outweighed the bad. Which I guess is pretty impressive in and of itself. Omikron really was one of those games that firmly embeds itself into your memories as a landmark of gaming.

    I’ve heard a lot of criticism for the beat-em-up sections, but I absolutely loved them, to the extent that I was highly disappointed that Quantic Dream hadn’t provided a stand-alone fighting game as an extra game mode, using the existing code and assets. The tournament was fun, but so short. I think they could have done something very cool in this respect with comparatively little effort, but it wasn’t to be.

    OTOH, I was kinda nonplussed by the Bowie inclusions (despite generally liking Bowie), but hey… it was certainly something different :)

    Sorry to hear it doesn’t work on your PC, John.

  15. Shadowcat says:

    Oh, and a special mention goes to the puzzles, which in an unexpected turn of events, were completely logical to solve. It’s been a long time admittedly, but I can’t remember a single puzzle requiring some absurd leap of logic to resolve. Everything could be sensibly reasoned about. It made me extremely happy.

    Sure, they could be a little arbitrary in the context of the game world, but better that than the other way around. That said, I would make this suggestion to the writers: Don’t ever have your game’s characters claim that no one has ever been able to figure out the solution to a rather simple puzzle unless you are trying to indicate that said characters are quite immensely thick. Your puzzles needn’t fit absolutely seamlessly into your fiction, but you could at least avoid actually highlighting those seams yourselves.

  16. Shadowcat says:

    “Are you excited about Nomad Soul on PC?”

    Eurogamer wants to know about their readers’ most anticipated games. Everyone click yes (below the article content), and see if we can get Omikron on the list! :)

  17. bill says:

    It seems to me that there is a retro gaming story in there somewhere. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been hanging out on GOG so much recently.. but it seems like there are lots of people who want to play old games, but it’s either impossible, pot luck, or a huge amount of work.

    This means we are losing a whole part of gaming history. Imagine if we couldn’t watch movies from 10 years ago because they wouldn’t work on modern TVs, it’d be ridiculous, and whole generations would grow up never knowing about anything before Modern Warfare.

    It’s been left up to the dosbox guys to effectively rescue that whole generation, and they’ve done a great job. But the early windows games are a whole factor more tricky. It seems very sad and rather ridiculous that we can no longer run pre-directx9 games, and even some of those don’t work.

    It also makes the game publisher’s retail model fundamentally different from all other mediums. Movies, Books, Albums – all of these can sell for decades. Games, about 3 years.

    I don’t know what the solution is, and I guess it’s in the interests of MS, Nvidia and ATi to keep pushing us to newer and shinier games… but it seems like there should be a way to deal with this pretty easily.
    Whether through Nvidia and Ati contributing to virtual machine projects to allow them to emulate old games, or through them putting some kind of “retro mode” button on their software, that would make things backwards compatible and also limit the framerate (often the main problem), or through them helping out some of the glide/directx wrappers out there.

    I just want to play Interstate 76, Outcast and half the other games I have on my shelf and can’t play without jumping through hoops.

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      That’s all well and good, but at some point, it just stops being commercially viable to continue writing drivers that make modern technology pretend to be a decade old.

      God knows what the Direct X 6.1 drivers look like in comparison to 9.0c, let alone 11.

      I think legacy gaming is becoming like old arcade machines or Commodore 64s or Atari 2600s – if you want to keep playing it, you need to keep hold of the hardware…or wait until some smart kid decides to write emulation.

      Direct x 6.1 emulation, there’s a project for someone with a lot of time on their hands.

  18. Tei says:

    Omikron has ben in my “TO DO” list since forever. I remenber playing again and again the demo. My interest was reallly high.. but never was able to play the whole game.

  19. Chevluh says:

    Bowie’s not only in the game, he plays three characters in it (a singer, an AI and a resistance leader, if memory serves).

  20. Bob says:

    This is one of my favorite games ever. I remember seeing it in store, but our PC at the time barely met the minimum requirements. The shop told me I could try running it at home, and if it didn’t work I could exchange it the day after. To my dissapointment, it wouldn’t run for more than a few minutes.

    The next day, one hour before the shop closed, I fortunately found some workaround. I had to run the game, start a new game, let it run for two minutes, then go to the options, change some graphics settings, close the game. After that I could start the game again and continue playing.

    I had to do that EVERY SINGLE TIME. But it was so worth it.

    I believe one of my ex-girlfriends still has my original, physical copy, and I can’t be bothered to get it back. I might ‘borrow’ it from the internet. Or wait till Heavy Rain gets ported to PC… sigh.

  21. Premium User Badge

    drewski says:

    Oh, and from experience, nVidia cards will run this, although you’ll still have to put up with some pretty awful graphical glitches.

  22. Maxheadroom says:

    This was one of the most original games I’d every played and absolutely loved it. From the cinematic Bowie-sung intro that kicked in after you’d already been playing for 10 minutes, to the ingenious death system I was thoroughly engrossed.

    Cant remember why I stopped playing it mid way through but kinda sad to hear my PC version will no longer run. I do have a Dreamcast gathering dust in the loft though…

  23. Wulf says:

    [Might as well pop this in here, copied from my Sunday Papers post.]

    I can understand where John’s coming from, to be honest.

    Omikron is just one of those games that could use a remake by people who actually care about what they’re making, sometimes when you have someone with vision–like Cage–they go running off with all these mad schemes and you end up with a broken mess of discarded dreams. This is actually true of Fahrenheit too, and I love Fahrenheit, but the problem, in general, is just very niggling, it’s far, far more niggling in Omikron than it is in Fahrenheit.

    David Cage strikes me as a man who has a lot of creativity, but not a lot of care. If you listen to him talk about Fahrenheit these days, he’ll often speak of it as though he absolutely despises it, because these days he’s making adult games for adult people, instead of immature little messes like Fahrenheit. And that’s the vibe I’ve always had from Cage. I’ve spoken about this before, too, not sure where… but I have. It’s just this bloody aura he has.

    A man like that you do not want being in charge of game development.

    Vision is fine, but only if you care about the dreams you have, if you love each and every one, and see them through to completion before discarding them in favour of the next, bigger, shinier one. Cage is like a rich kid with toys, but the toys are ideas, he gets so many of them that he just doesn’t know how to attribute value to them any more. There are some people who can have an abundance of creativity and yet value each and every idea they have, and have fondness for everything their brain creates, without even being egotistical. David Cage is the anti-thesis of that.

    This might be harsh, but if you look at his games it’s actually fairly obvious. He has ideas even halfway through a game’s development, and what happens is that the previous elements are just tossed away. This can work, it can be brilliantly mad and original, it can move fast (too fast for some people), and it can be a laugh. It worked for Fahrenheit to a degree, but even Fahrenheit felt like there were four or five game start ups in there that were discarded, the most notable being the murder scene at the beginning, which had a different feel to the rest of the game.

    I’m expecting this same problem with Heavy Rain, too, that the game will just move from one thing to the next, thinking of the previous thing as a bad idea and sort of hoping that the player will forget about it. It happened in Omikron too, and it was made fun of even at the time. Does anyone remember the fighting and FPS sections? I clearly remember jokes about how the FPS section could only be played on a PC (it was painful on a console), and how the fighting section was better tailored to consoles, and PC gamers had to plug in a gamepad for it, because it’s nearly damn impossible to play a fighter on a keyboard.

    David Cage is certainly a visionary, but I don’t think he’s the right sort of visionary, and definitely not the sort that I like.

    Ragnar Tørnquist > David Cage

    There, I’ve said it, I feel better.

    And with all this talk of Visionaries, I’ve got the theme of the like named cartoon going around in my head.

    (Oh, and on the topic of French developers, we need a new LittleBigAdventure!)

    • Mister Adequate says:

      Just sticking my oar in regarding the last line of yours, what I wouldn’t give to see Delphine and Adeline making games again.

    • Wulf says:

      Indeed.

      I really miss them, my mind links their name with some of my favourite gaming memories; Another World, Flashback, and Little Big Adventure. Each was amazing, because each could stand on its own as an enjoyable game, but each had a story and a world that could be weighed by today’s standards. Those games were well ahead of their time.

      When I think of all the detail that went into those games, it’s simply breathtaking, and they really haven’t been topped. And to think, as much as I’d love to see these Frenchfolk creating a sequel to my favourite memories, I’d be even more interested in seeing what they’d create anew.

      Thinking on it, it was their efforts that set the foundations for what I expect from games today, a game which is fun to play, yields hidden bounties to those that explore, has a detailed world, and an intriguing storyline.

  24. Mike says:

    Wow I was just thinking about this game yesterday. LOOOVE it, I honestly think the glitches and broken elements add something to the experience. This should be remade, someone make me a crysis mod!

  25. Kadayi says:

    I’m sure I’ve still got my boxed copy squirrelled away somewhere. Really enjoyed it at the time, but the combat was bloody awful and I think I ended up stuck attempting to fight my way over a dock area (and back again) which proved to be too much hassle given you had to start from scratch again. Certainly an interesting title and probably one worthy of a timely remake, though naturally after Deus Ex of course.

  26. Cooper says:

    I bought this cheapo from a charity store about 6 months ago (David Bowie + David Cage surely must = win, it seemed to me). Couldn’t run it on my old rig properly, can’t even begin to get it starting on my new one.

    Anyone had any luck running this on wine?

  27. Gdog says:

    It is bowie basically yeah, the character is called Boz and he voices him i believe.

  28. Gdog says:

    sort out the reply thing RPS! comment above for pyschopomp and jordanwise