When the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 arrived, people expected open world pundits Rockstar Games to step out the door with something truly next-gen. What they got was something surprising: a game of table tennis.
Yes, it actually happened.
“Our mission at Rockstar has been clear to us since the inception of the company: to create titles with innovative gameplay on topics that matter to us,” said Rockstar co-founder Sam Houser in a 2006 interview with IGN. “We’ve always been a company that likes to take risks and do things differently from others. To us that doesn’t just mean gangster movies, car chases, or westerns (as much as we still love them), but anything that we think is interesting and hasn’t been dealt with successfully elsewhere in a game. video. From our point of view, table tennis did the job perfectly.
Rockstar was interested in what might happen if their new game engine, which would later take power Grand Theft Auto IV and other sprawling open worlds, focused on a single idea. In this case, it was table tennis.
The studio in charge of the construction Rockstar Games presents table tennis– quite the name! – was Rockstar San Diego. Having worked on Smugglers Race and Nightclub For the PlayStation 2 launch, Houser suspected that San Diego was best suited for a game early on in the launch of new hardware. Table tennis happened a few months later than the launch of the Xbox 360 (March 23, 2006 vs. November 22, 2005.)
Although Rockstar has been more closely associated with PlayStation in recent years, with the Grand Theft Auto games regularly launched first on Sony platforms, Table tennis was an Xbox 360 exclusive. The PlayStation 3 wasn’t released until later in 2006, although Rockstar ported the game to the Wii in 2007.
Another quirk? Table tennis released at $ 40, slightly cheaper than other games. This was around the time when the industry was slowly moving to $ 60 as the standard price for a game, rather than the $ 50 of the previous generation.
Rockstar wasn’t making a clunky game. It was serious business, Houser hoping to “create a sports game with the intensity of a fighting game and a sense of speed and control that would make it a more intense and visceral experience than it ever was.” previously possible with sports games “.
By most estimates, it looks like Rockstar has pulled it off.
“As one of the first commercially available video games, Pong seems to have an almost academic importance, but not enough credit is given to the simple elegance of its design – two bar-shaped “paddles”, a square “ball” – something which arose largely from limitations. techniques. There is an obvious correlation between Pong and the new Rockstar table tennis for Xbox 360, in this Table tennis is literally a ping pong simulation. But it also follows the same philosophy of stripping the experience to its essence, something focused and intense. Rockstar table tennis treats gaming like a serious sport, taking incredible care to present some of the most lifelike player characters ever put into a game, and delivering frantic, nuanced action.
Even years later, critics praise it as the only true game of table tennis:
Wait, was there one for the Gizmondo where you played against girls in bikinis?
As previously mentioned, Table tennis never made its way to the PS3, but it did arrive on the Wii, one of the few times Rockstar flirted with the Nintendo console.
The controls were changed for the Wii Remote, but worked fine, but when GameSpotby Ryan Davis reviewed this version, he lamented the time lag between swinging the remote and appearing onscreen. Keep in mind that it was only with the MotionPlus add-on that Nintendo’s controller approached the 1: 1 motion:
“All three options work pretty well, although in our experience the freak control setup isn’t as useful as the other two because the game handles player movement quite well. Considering the depth originally offered on the Xbox 360, it’s impressive how far it got here. Still, there are tradeoffs that undermine the game of some of its kinetic feel. It’s much harder to miss the table with the standard control scheme, which makes the game much, much easier. The biggest problem, however, is the incredible disconnect between your movement and the on-screen action. Rather than operating on a one-to-one control scale, where what you see is directly correlated to your movement in real time, you can swing anytime the ball is heading towards you, and your player will swing automatically. right on time. The game actually encourages you to swing as early as possible because the strength of your spin is determined by how long you hold the D pad. It’s fully functional, but it doesn’t make you feel like you’re really play table tennis no more than the 360 version, which would seem the whole point of bringing Table tennis to the Wii in the first place.
Here’s what it looked like in practice:
Table tennis appears to be a random time jump. Rockstar has never produced anything like it since, and it doesn’t seem Table tennis 2 be there soon. If anything, Table tennis laid the groundwork for the ridiculous amount of mini-games to be found in the Grand Theft Auto games these days!
That Actually Happened is a weekly series at Kotaku in which we highlight interesting moments from video game history. So far, we’ve revisited the moment Sonic kissed a human, a live action game show on Xbox 360 and Sony throwing a God of War party with a dead goat. If you have any suggestions for future sets let us know in the comments below!