Moles 4 – what every Hungarian gamer must see.
Since readers of the current SamaGame magazine will be able to watch the full Mole 4 movie for free for another 3 weeks, we’ll make a little of it. Because whoever saw it knows that this work really needs to be seen!
Despite its small size, the Hungarian video game industry can be very successful – it is almost impossible to present them in an hour and a half. However, the documentary Moles 4 undertook this, working with terrible work and almost fifty speakers from the beginning of the eighties to the turn of the millennium, ie from the first spectral and commodore Hungarian games to Imperium Galactica 2. While the genre of documentary alone may not seem as exciting to many as a cool TV series or any blockbuster in which the protagonist’s name ends in “man,” it’s a must-watch for anyone with a bit of an interest in the history of domestic video games. And in addition, in the digital supplement of SamaGame magazine 2017/05, ie on the SamaGame Plus interface, you can now watch the full movie for free (this option only lasts until the release of the next GS), let’s talk in a little more detail about why it is important to see domestic game development history.
Value below the surface
But how does an underground, insectivorous mammal get into the title? The creators are independent filmmakers who have taken it upon themselves to showcase the underground subcultures they encounter. Underground, that is, underground, you understand – well, that’s where the moles come from. There were already three films in the series that were shot from music, fine arts and demoscener diasporas, but this fourth was about all of our favorite entertainment, video games, and how they were made when all the fun was just born in Hungary.
There are, of course, similar films from other countries, one of the most famous being the 2014 From Bedrooms to Billions, which shows the British heroic era. It is difficult to make a documentary about an era from the perspective of more than thirty years, so that the result is spectacular. Most can be asked of those who worked on games at the time (and still live today), and of course these interviews can be broken up with clipping images, but the focus still remains on the talking heads, from which some sort of arc should be made, preferably so that the viewer don’t be bored to death. From Bedrooms to Billions wasn’t fully capable of that – I simply lost interest at the end. Moles 4, on the other hand, does everything it can to bring up the interview format: the memories of former developers are thrown into backgrounds, drawings and small pixel gags that match the games, the background is all kinds of chiptune music, and the creators put the whole story in a video player frame ( let’s say this is a bit overdone I think, but it’s a matter of taste). And the Hungarian documentary may be more winning than the British one, because it is simply a much better story of how the Hungarians tried to assert themselves in the game market, which was unfolding its wings, when socialism was still in its infancy.
Last Ninja and the others
Director Szilárd Matusik has noticed that this is the most interesting chapter in Hungarian game history, it is no coincidence that the first, longer half of the film is about the period between 1982-88. The first lonely heroes (practically the first Hungarian indie developers) speak, of which the name of István Rátkai, who travels in adventure games, is perhaps the best known, but of course Novotrade takes the prime, as in the early eighties only this company sold games. But the start of the Novotrade was not easy either: we needed a Western connection – it was Robert Stein, who emigrated to London in the Fifty-six – and that the socialism of the Kádár regime was just softening. And of course, there are plenty of talented people who wanted to develop a video game.
It is clear from the film that after the first year or two, Novotrade was organized and professional: Stein acquired the business and the hardware, Donát Kiss was the technical chief, Tamás Révbíró was the artistic director, and the games were made by smaller teams. which were full of geniuses. From this line-up, there have been successes such as Eureka, designed specifically for the Western market and co-created by Ian Livingstone (one of the authors of the book Adventure, Game, Risk, and also worked on Tomb Raider). But we could mention Traffic, which has also become popular in Japan, Impossible Mission II for Epyx, or the big spike in Hungarian game development, The Last Nin, ordered by System 3. The latter could not have come together without a Hungarian team, yet their name is nowhere in the game – System 3 boss Mark Cale practically now, in an interview with Moles 4, only acknowledged the valuable contribution of the Hungarians.
In addition to the games, there are many interesting stories and life paths, for example, that one of the best-known Hungarian researchers, László Mérő, also made C64 games (even at the very beginning of Novotrade), that Kisses hacked an NES development machine. a couple of Japanese publishers, or that Steve Jobs first showed Mouse to Judge at an American tech show. One similar cartridge swells every minute, while the peculiarities of socialism are also discussed, from the COCOM list to the dollar shops (the pore people could only buy in these currencies). It is a wonderfully intense, exciting experience to listen to the eyewitnesses of the pre-regime change gaming industry.
At the same time, the film isn’t perfect, though most of its flaws aren’t necessarily an objective flaw, but rather a kind of “I wouldn’t have done it” type of teasing. I would have cut two films right away: one about the eighties and one about the nineties. You can feel that there are plenty of two-film cocoa in the raw material, and the tone of the two decades is quite different. When the second half of Moles 4 begins, the arc also breaks a bit, because the developers at the time make a very different statement and come up with completely different problems than those who started in socialism. There are also great Hungarian successes (Digital Reality) and determined indies during this period (for example, the adventure game guru Róbert Olessák or the developers of Newcomer), but DR, for example, has already had one of the great dramas that Imperium Galactica 2 The publisher wanted electronic music for them, but the producer waved at them.
But of course, it’s easy to be smart about the shoreline and expect the Matusik to squander jobs, energy, project screenings for two, and so on. The Moles 4 is still an amazing basic work made with a lot of work and love, about the heroic age of Hungarian video game development, informative and entertaining. He is smoothly in a league with similar foreign attempts, and even beats most to the kenter. We can be proud of it, as well as the video game classics developed in Hungary.
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