<table> <tr> <td class=headerlogo> <p class=image><a href="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net" target="_parent"><img src="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/logo/hg101logo.png" alt="Logo by MP83"></a></p> </td> <td> <table class=headerright> <tr> <td class=headermenu> <a href="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/alpha.htm" target="_parent">Articles</a> | <a href="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/features.htm" target="_parent">Features</a> | <a href="http://blog.hardcoregaming101.net" target="_parent">Blog</a> | <a href="http://hg101.proboards.com/" target="_parent">Forums</a> | <a href="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/about.htm" target="_parent">About</a>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hardcore-Gaming-101/109837535712670" target="_blank"><img alt=" " src="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/facebook.png"></a>&nbsp;&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/HG_101" target="_blank"><img alt=" " src="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/twitter.png"></a> </td> <td class=searchbox> <form action="http://www.google.com/cse" id="cse-search-box" target="_parent"> <div> <input type="hidden" name="cx" value="partner-pub-5230184257141993:xfg3mydy24k"> <input type="hidden" name="ie" value="ISO-8859-1"> <input type="text" name="q" size="30"> <input type="submit" name="sa" value="Search"> </div> </form> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://www.google.com/coop/cse/brand?form=cse-search-box&amp;lang=en"></script> </td> </tr> </table> <table class=headerad> <tr> <td> <script type="text/javascript"><!-- google_ad_client = "pub-5230184257141993"; /* HG101 */ google_ad_slot = "4961941287"; google_ad_width = 728; google_ad_height = 90; //--> </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js"> </script> </td> </tr> </table> </td> </tr> </table>

<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Super 3D Noah's Ark
The War in Heaven

Page 2:
Saints of Virtue
Catechumen
Ominous Horizons: A Paladin's Calling

Page 3:
Eternal War: Shadows of Light
Analysis

Back to the Index


by Nick Gibson - February 20th, 2012

Any discussion of Christian video games must inevitably start with Wisdom Tree. Wisdom Tree was a group of former Color Dreams employees who developed and self-published a series of unlicensed religious games for the NES, SNES, Genesis, and Game Boy. After the dawn of 32-bit technology, Wisdom Tree shifted their focus to edutainment games for the PC - a space they continue to operate in to this day. As most gamers know (probably thanks to the Angry Video Game Nerd and Seanbaby if nothing else), their games weren't really that great. Some, like Joshua and the Battle of Jericho, were pretty decent, but generally Wisdom Tree's games reflected their limited budgets and lack of official development kits. What most gamers might not know, however, is that Wisdom Tree was the vanguard for a (small) Christian game industry.

Modern religious game output ranges from digital card battlers to RTS games and action RPGs. Today we'll be exploring perhaps one of the most interesting, misrepresented, and generally unknown areas of that industry - the Christian First Person Shooter. Covering six games from five developers, this article will seek to document the details of a part of video game history that might be wholly forgotten otherwise. It is composed almost exclusively of original research using old interviews, archived websites, forum posts, and first-party information. From an author's perspective, it is quite exciting to be able to compile what is essentially the only source on a given topic - even if the games involved aren't exactly GOTY contenders. Hopefully this article will assist HG101 in its mission to educate and intrigue.

A common theme here is that with one notable exception these games were made on shoestring budgets by at most a handful of people. These games are, in a sense, kusoge: bad games with hearts of gold, doomed to be inferior to their secular counterparts despite their developer's hard work and best intentions. Perhaps Mack Ponech of XrucifiX (more on that later) said it best in an email to the author:

"For most Christian developers, much like indie developers, we all share a unified story of setting out to make a good game. Making a game however, is a ton of work and in some cases we underestimate the amount of work involved in it. We'll spend years developing the game, mortgage our houses, work second jobs, to get it done. If the developer manages to get the work done they're normally exhausted by the end of the process and release the game. At this point the 'second half of the run' comes into effect; market awareness. If people don't know about your game or can't easily buy your game then they won't buy your game. Sales are low, so the developer cannot continue with operations and have to dedicate their time to paying off the debt that development created."

But that's enough introduction: on to the games!

Saints of Virtue (Windows)


Super 3D Noah's Ark - Super NES, DOS, Windows (1994)

American Super NES Cover

American PC Cover

When id Software was still just a dream called "Ideas of the Deep" and its founders were still employed at Softdisk, John Carmack developed a technique to do smooth 2D scrolling on PCs. It was a fantastic coding feat that brought PCs to a world of graphics tech that had been dominated by consoles such as Nintendo's NES. To emphasize this point, Carmack and Romero put together a demo that recreated the first level of Super Mario Bros. They shopped it to Nintendo. Nintendo turned them down, claiming that they were not interested in entering the PC market.

However, the later success of Wolfenstein 3D and Spear of Destiny prompted Nintendo to offer a $100,000 contract to id Software if they would port Wolfenstein 3D to the Super Nintendo, albeit with much of the violence and Nazi imagery censored. Shortly thereafter, id Software's business manager received a request from Wisdom Tree to license out the Wolf3D engine - including the Super Nintendo version - for a game involving Noah's Ark. id was well aware that Nintendo did not allow religious content of any kind in their games, but they realized Wisdom Tree was in earnest when the Christian games developer revealed their plans to release the game without a license from Nintendo.

The cart would be a pass-through design that would require an "official" SNES donor cart in order to operate. The Super Nintendo would receive security data from the donor cart, and then Super 3D Noah's Ark would piggyback that security handshake into memory and begin execution. id Software promptly sold the engines to Wisdom Tree, making Super 3D Noah's Ark the only unlicensed Super Nintendo game to see a commercial release. The game also saw a release on MS-DOS using the original Wolf3D engine.

Of all the games investigated in this article, Super 3D Noah's Ark is perhaps the one that needs the least actual review. If you've played Wolfenstein 3D, then you know what to expect, and even more so if you've played the Super Nintendo port. It looks good and plays pretty well, has 32 levels (2 hidden) and several secrets per map. It also retains the floor bosses and all that jazz.

Super 3D Noah's Ark (SNES)

What requires explanation is the way Wisdom Tree changed the graphics and premise. According to the Biblical account of Noah, the sins of man had become so grave that God resolved to wipe out the Earth with a flood and start anew. God instructed Noah (the only remaining righteous person on Earth) to build a huge Ark to house his family and a male and Female specimen of every animal in order to re-seed the earth with life after the flood subsided. Super 3D Noah's Ark, against all odds, replaces B.J. Blazkowicz with Noah and subs out Nazis for angry goats and sheep. Instead of guns you have a slingshot that can fire various types of fruit. So you're not actually shooting the animals; you're feeding them so that they will fall asleep. Otherwise, they'll kick you and throw coconuts at you until you die. (!!!) The bosses of each floor are tougher animals like giraffes and bears.

The whinnying cry of the sheep as they buckle under a hail of apples and oranges is surreal, to say the least. But for all the religious trappings it's not an awful game, since it's essentially a texture swap for id's classic FPS. Wisdom Tree's games were definitely marketed to kids, in this case as a clean substitute for a game that was perceived at the time to be a negative influence on children. So really, it's not for meant for us - but that doesn't mean it isn't hilarious to try out anyway.

That said, the game's historical significance and the general insanity of the retro Nintendo market has led to astronomical prices on eBay for the Super Nintendo version. The PC version can still be purchased from Wisdom Tree directly at their website, but honestly you might as well just pull down your favorite emulator and do it that way.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Wisdom Tree

Publisher:

Wisdom Tree

Genre:

Action: 1st Person

Themes:

2D Sprites over Polygons
Kusoge
Period: Ancient History


Super 3D Noah's Ark (SNES)

Super 3D Noah's Ark (SNES)

Super 3D Noah's Ark (SNES)

Super 3D Noah's Ark (SNES)


View all "Super 3D Noah's Ark" items on eBay


The War in Heaven - Windows (1999)

American Windows Cover

Wow, where to begin. The War in Heaven is by far the least well-known game on this list and also has the distinction of being designed by a person who is, from what information is available, a deluded misogynist-racist-egomaniac fundamentalist. The person in question is Theodore Beale, and he is one half of the one-hit-wonder studio called Eternal Warriors. Beale enters into public record when he worked on some lyrics for the 1990's heavy techno group Psykosonik. It is unknown exactly how much he contributed during his two year stint with the group. A few years later, Beale co-founded a games company called Fenris Wolf, which developed two now-obscure FPS games for GT Interactive. At that point, Beale and the other creator of Fenris Wolf formed Eternal Warriors and secured a retail release for The War in Heaven through budget publisher ValuSoft.

Beale went on to author some Christian fantasy books that follow a theme similar to The War in Heaven video game, and now writes as a columnist for WorldNetDaily.com under the name Vox Day, where he opines about women losing the right to vote and the inherent superiority of various races. He also edits his own wiki articles and self-aggrandizes his accomplishments, e.g. claiming credit for Psykosonic's work on the Mortal Kombat: Annihilation OST - published three years after he left the group. His father is also an interesting character: he's a multi-millionaire entrepreneur, currently doing 11 years for tax evasion and threatening to murder a judge. But let's get back to brass tacks: now that you know the person behind The War in Heaven, it's time to see the product.

Assuming you are foolish enough to either buy or download The War in Heaven somewhere, you'll have to own an older computer to run it. The game will not work on x64 systems since the installer is 16-bit. It's possible to get it rolling on an x86 Windows XP computer, although the game suffered from many bugs, hangs, and glitches even after applying the official patches. Once you get it running, you'll be treated to some pretty amateurish 3D graphics. The marketing materials advertise a "state-of-the-art non-Euclidean portal-based engine", which is a bit of techno mumbo jumbo to the average person, but even if that's true then Beale and company didn't have anywhere near the skills/resources to make use of it, because this sure doesn't look like Quake III. The screenshots probably speak for themselves.

The War in Heaven

The basic idea is that Lucifer has just attempted a coup d'etat, and now (wait for it) there's a... war in heaven! The angels are picking sides, and you can choose to stay with God or to follow Lucifer and become a rebel. It's an interesting approach to let the player follow a demonic or angelic campaign, and your weapons and enemies change according to your allegiance. The levels are all set in appropriately non-terrestrial realms such as the Outer Courts, Great Assembly, Pearly Gates, and so on. What is interesting is that The War in Heaven gets credit for basically establishing the basic template for the Christian FPS games that would follow - a spiritual setting thick with allegory, demons and Satan as opponents, and various holy weapons that shoot divine projectiles instead of bullets. There are horns that call down light from above, slings that fire holy water, swords, and so on. It's pretty clever, and enemy forces are banished to their respective planes (heaven/hell) instead of "dying". That doesn't really change the fact that the presentation is on par with a high school student project, and the game has more bugs than a family picnic.

To make matters worse, the AI is completely brain dead - often they just sit there, oblivious - and player movement is incredibly slow and imprecise. There's also nothing really to the game other than hacking up the enemies to clear the level and finding some keys and powerups. Without any graphics to marvel at or fun and challenging gameplay, what's the point? The War in Heaven still bounces around eBay, Amazon, and Half for a pittance, and if you have an old enough rig then it might be worth... no, actually, it isn't. Let YouTube be your guide and we'll just leave it at that.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Eternal Warriors

Publisher:

ValuSoft

Genre:

Action: 1st Person

Themes:

Kusoge
Period: Ancient History


The War in Heaven (Windows)

The War in Heaven (Windows)

The War in Heaven (Windows)

The War in Heaven (Windows)


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Super 3D Noah's Ark
The War in Heaven

Page 2:
Saints of Virtue
Catechumen
Ominous Horizons: A Paladin's Calling

Page 3:
Eternal War: Shadows of Light
Analysis

Back to the Index