Mail rights advocate: Postal is open source

Isometric spree shooter Postal [official site] is now open source. Originally released back in 1997 and now old enough to see its favourite flicks at the cinema without standing on its mate’s shoulders and draping a trenchcoat over the top, Running Scissor’s debut was the Hatred of the nineties. It was also, according to the developers, one of Senator Joseph Lieberman’s “three worst things in American society”. The others were Marilyn Manson and Calvin Klein ads, which paints such a rosy picture of the America of yesteryear as compared to 2017 that I’m desperately trying to put the finishing touches on the time machine in my basement.

I remember the title of the game making sense to my teenage mind but I think the term ‘going postal’ has fallen out of common use. Deriving from workplace shootings by postal office workers (retail workers were actually more likely to ‘go postal’ than postal workers), it became slang for any kind of “mad as hell and not going to take this anymore” behaviour that leads to aggression and violence. Postal is an isometric shooter about that sort of scenario – you play the shooter – though there’s conspiracy theory behind the final breakdown rather than direct anger at workmates or neighbours.

Controversial when released, and source of a splastick sequel (and a threequel that I’d completely forgotten about until just now) and a Uwe Boll film adaptation, is Postal due for reappraisal?

Not really. I haven’t played the original since the nineties and I liked both of Lieberman’s “worst things in American society” more than it even then. I remember reading an Onion article about Marilyn Manson doing door-to-door shock tactics because his music career was drying up (he’s actually got a new album out this year, to my surprise) and chuckling, even though I’d almost certainly seen him on tour a couple of years earlier and got a kick out of it. I absolutely wanted to rage against all kinds of things as a teenager, and silly theatrical music was a fairly tame way to do most of that raging.

Postal never appealed to me though because I’d already played Syndicate and Smash TV and it didn’t look like a patch on them, and even if I had wanted to play as a spree killer in a real world environment, the screenshots I saw just looked dark and muddy. It was the Redneck Rampage of isometric shooters. What does tend to be forgotten is that the original played its premise mostly straight, though it’s also remarkably similar to original GTA’s “GOURANGA!” moment in places. The sandbox silliness of the sequel, which is mostly about pissing and puking on people, including the developers, feels like the truest Postal experience. It’s more Goat Simulator than Hatred; outrage as prank rather than screed.

As for the Calvin Klein ads, I don’t know what Lieberman’s objections to them were. Sexiness? Nudity? Unhealthy body image? Disturbing imagery? A quick search on Google suggests that every source for the “three worst things in American society” statement/document is Running With Scissors themselves. Lieberman did denounce violent games, including Postal, a view he has since modified in the face of research, and he wasn’t a Manson fan, but the “three worst things” quote is difficult to find. Of course, I haven’t done the kind of in-depth hunting I’d like to dedicate to the matter, but I would genuinely love to see the original source.

Of course, the original source code is what I originally intended to discuss.

“It’s definitely been a wild ride for us all, and Postal means a lot to us – it’s our baby… But now we’re ready to hand the future of ‘the little shooter that could’ to the public at large. People have been asking, and we have been promising this for years now, but today we are proud to announce that the source code for Postal is officially released to the public on Bitbucket, under the GPL2 license. Everyone now has ‘under the hood’ access, to see what makes Postal tick, and anyone with the time and skills can now tweak/change/update/modify anything in the game at all! And hey, if anyone feels the urge to port the game to other platforms (The Dreamcast, for example *wink* *wink*), then they absolutely can!”

I wonder what will happen next. Running With Scissors have already released a remake in the form of Postal Redux, but maybe someone can mod Marilyn Manson’s door-to-door shockathon into the original?

From this site

10 Comments

  1. crowleyhammer says:

    Thought that screenshot was from Project Zomboid!

    • Sblahful says:

      My thought exactly!

      “Oooo, have they finally done something with this game?? Is it finished at long last??”

      But no, sadly not. PZ was my first foray into EA games, and remains the best warning against them.

  2. Turkey says:

    I feel like Postal is the only one of the big controversial games that had nothing beyond the controversy. Carmageddon, Mortal Kombat, GTA and Manhunt still had some decent game mechanics backing them up, but Postal was just a crap shooter with awful controls and bad AI.

    Postal 2 was alright in a South Park edginess sort of way, though.

  3. gabrielonuris says:

    I have a question: I liked Postal 2, I liked it’s sandboxy wrecking havoc, getting into houses, scaring people, setting parades on fire with gas, kicking heads, urinating on bank tellers until they throw up, showing my peewee to feminists, blowing up gays and hipsters and… Well, in other words, don’t giving a single fck for being politically correct, so:

    Would I like Postal 3 or is it really, really, really bad?

    • smoozles says:

      It’s bad, the humor is dated (even for the release time), the story is a mess (most likely due to the Russian developers going off script) and it’s full of bugs.
      The 5$ sale price is still too much for that turd

    • Ricc says:

      Postal 3 is just that: really bad.

      However, RWS released a semi-sequel to Postal 2 in 2015, that afaik absolutely nobody ever talked about, called “Postal 2: Paradise Lost”. It’s a campaign-length expansion pack, set in a post-apocalyptic version of P2, continuing right after events of the main game.

      I recently got Postal 2 and the DLC on Steam, which is basically all the content wrapped up into one. Last played that game almost a decade ago and coming back to it was pretty cool.

      If you liked the original Postal 2 then the Paradise Lost DLC is pretty much more of that, made by the same guys. I really enjoyed it.

  4. Sin Vega says:

    I honestly don’t even remember any controversy, but then at the time I had no interest in the games press, so the only word of mouth was my friends, who either hadn’t heard of it or thought it was a fun little over the top shooter that nobody would be daft enough to take seriously.

    Watching gameplay videos of it a year or two back, it surprised me how interesting its tone was towards the end. Not fascinating or particularly important, but there was a vein of that actually dark (in the ‘somewhat compelling’ way rather than the more common ‘teenage contrarian praising satan/hitler/isis/estate agents’ way) tone that characterised some corners of pop culture in the mid-90s. Certainly compared to the second game it was more interesting thematically. I also didn’t get the feeling they were trying quite so desperately hard like the developers of Hatred were – the ultraviolence for Postal was in service of trangressional/cathartic shooty fun first, not the obvious cash grab by way of unimaginative appeals to notoriety.

  5. CannedLizard says:

    If I recall correctly, Calvin Klein underwear ads at the time had a weird vibe. A kind of…well, you can see them in an article here.

  6. shagen454 says:

    Nerd talk – I was a high school student obsessed with this game. I spoke to the developer about having a forum and they said they didn’t want to host a forum on their server because of all the controversy. So, I created my own and they were the official forums for years. LOL

  7. rickenbacker says:

    Yay?!?

    Postal was shit then, and is even more shit today. The controversy should really have been about the mental torture it put anyone who bought it through.