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MDK

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MDK is a third-person shooter game [1] developed by Shiny Entertainment [2] and released in 1997 by Playmates Interactive Entertainment in North America and Interplay Entertainment in Europe for the PC, Macintosh, and subsequently PlayStation. It was one of the first PC games to require a Pentium or equivalent processor[citation needed], and did not initially have a GPU requirement. The game soundtrack, composed by Tommy Tallarico, was also released.

The game tells the story of its protagonist, Kurt Hectic and his attempts to rescue Earth from an alien invasion of gigantic strip mining city-vehicles named 'Minecrawlers', which are not only removing all of earth's natural resources but are also flattening any people and cities that get in their way. The game combined action with a sense of humour. It featured a "sniper mode" that allowed the player to zoom in on enemy targets.

A sequel, MDK2 was developed by Bioware and released by Interplay for the PC and Dreamcast in 2000, and later for the PlayStation 2 (titled MDK 2: Armageddon) in 2001.

Technology

The game used a software-based engine (unlike most other games of the time that relied on "brute force" hardware acceleration), low resolution graphics or tricks such as fogging and clipping to maintain a high framerate in large maps.[citation needed] However, patches that added support for popular (at the time) APIs (D3D, Glide, Redline and PowerVR) were later released. Although a fast CPU was recommended, the game ran smoothly with (relatively) low RAM. Kurt's movement was created using motion capture and sprite-based animation.

Its "sniper mode" feature allowed the player to zoom in all the way from one side of the map to the other without having objects popping up.

Plot

MDK's manual is in the form of a diary of an eccentric inventor, Dr. Fluke Hawkins. Dr. Hawkins discovers something he calls "Flange Orbits", but when he broaches them to scientific community, he is ridiculed.

Dr. Fluke Hawkins then builds a space station, the Jim Dandy, bribes his laboratory janitor, Kurt Hectic, with Hungarian Goulash, and launches himself into a self-imposed exile, swearing never to return until he "comes up with some really good stuff". Upon reaching orbit, he realizes that "Flange Orbits" don't actually exist. Rather than return to Earth in shame, he begins work on a robotic dog that Dr. Hawkins calls "Bones" (the dog prefers "Max").

Dr. Hawkins continued work in relative peace until one day, he noticed a strange phenomenon- streams of incredible energy headed straight for the Earth. The good Doctor sent down a warning (along with a basket of Max's oranges) but was promptly ignored. The streams proceeded to disgorge innumerable hordes of enemies in "Minecrawlers", giant fortress-cities designed to strip the mineral wealth (and potato crop, according to Dr. Hawkins) from a planet. The military forces of Earth were crushed.

Dr. Hawkins decided to take action. Pairing his new "Coil Suit", a revolutionary armor suit capable of repelling "bullets, bees, and small but very hard sticks" that held a retractable/re-usable "ribbon chute" for parachuting or gliding, along with an arm-mounted chaingun that also serves as a head-mounted sniper rifle, Dr. Hawkins had the perfect weapons suite. Kurt was the only one who could wear it, due to the Doctor's age and Max's extra pair of legs.

So, Kurt was dispatched on "Mission: Deliver Kindness", entering the Minecrawlers from above, and destroying them from the inside-out, shooting his way through to the "driver", typically killing them in some rather violent fashion. Kurt fights his way through the Minecrawlers, destroying them one by one, until he comes to meet Gunter Glut, the hideous leader of the invasion.

Kurt destroys the Minecrawler but Glut escapes with Max in captivity, chased by Kurt along a stream leading to the alien homeworld. Kurt frees Max and kills Glut, ending the game. The ending is a monochrome mix of a French pop music video (Non Non Rien N'a Changé by Billy Ze Kick) and clips from the MDK promotion Video.

Gameplay

MDK's gameplay is usually a third person shooter, except when sniper mode is entered. Kurt has a wide range of weapons to choose from, which differ in standard gameplay and sniper mode. A large part of the gameplay was the use of Kurt's "ribbon chute" which was a parachute that could be used infinitely.

In addition to the standard run-and-gun/sniper modes, there are a few mini-games in MDK. All levels start out with the atmospheric re-entry (explained below), while some levels have a bombing run, boarding a glider and dropping iron bombs on enemies. This clears the enemies far easier than would be on foot and often garners extra weapons.

There are also a few special game modes in different levels. One level has snowboarding sequences where Kurt must navigate obstacles while destroying enemies along the way. In another level, Kurt must disguise himself as a sentry robot to deceive guards.

Atmospheric Re-entry

All levels (with the exception of the final level) begin with Kurt skydiving from the 'Jim Dandy' to the Minecrawler below. The Minecrawler activates its radar (a green cone in the screenshot) which if touched triggers the launch of anti-air missiles, which must be dodged. Dr. Hawkins also sends down weapons at this point which (if collected) are added to Kurt's level inventory.

Arenas

Each level is divided into several sections called arenas, interconnected by tunnels. Each arena can be different in style and method of going through it. Some are large areas with many Grunt generators, and others combine platform jumping with puzzle solving. Many arenas have a specific solution, like throwing sniper mortars into tubes, pushing objects next to high platforms, or shooting power generators.

MDK only has six levels, although each level is fairly large; an entire level could take one hour or more.

Stream Riding

Once a level has ended, by killing the boss in command of the Minecrawler, the Minecrawler self-destructs and its debris and inhabitants are sucked back into the energy stream, taking Kurt with them. Kurt has a set time period in the energy stream; Kurt is pursuing a health powerup in front of him through the stream, which when collected grants 150% health. If he touches the walls of the stream, he loses 5 points health and decelerates. At the end of his period in the stream, Max will come out on a tether and pluck Kurt from the stream.

After the destruction of last minecrawler, Max is unable to retrieve Kurt from within the stream, due to his capture by Gunter Glut. As a result, Kurt emerges at the other end of the stream: the alien homeworld.

Kurt's Coil Suit

Kurt's main defense against the Streamriders is Dr. Hawkins's Coil Suit, a skin-tight armor suit made of a leather-like material inlaid with twisting gold designs. This suit serves as a bullet proof vest and protects Kurt from the atmospheric friction of re-entry.

The sniper rifle is actually Kurt's chaingun mounted on his helmet. It gains 100x zoom and the capability of supporting 6 different types of ammunition. Kurt does not actually see out of the helmet, rather, he sees out of a HUD camera, used to aim. There are three "Bullet Cams" that track each projectile and linger briefly after impact, showing the damage done.

The front end of Kurt's helmet can be removed and attached to his arm, becoming a machine gun with unlimited ammo. There is also a powerup that increases the damage and firing rate of the chaingun, making it even easier to defeat vast quantities of enemies.

The Ribbon Chute allows Kurt to navigate long jumps, long falls, and utilize updrafts (deploying automatically). The Ribbon Chute retracts automatically when not being used and can be used infinite times. According to Dr. Hawkins's diary, there were also concepts for a "Bow Chute" and a "Tie Chute".

Enemies

The enemies in MDK are a collective of aliens called Stream Riders under the command of Gunter Glut aka Gunta. They use the energy streams to invade planets and strip them of their mineral wealth. The alien force is composed mainly of Grunts, called this due to their number and vocalizations, sounding very similar to monkeys. Similar robots with better armour and weapons are found as the game advances. Usually Grunts are the most numerous force, and can be sent in large numbers with generators, grunt-launcher tanks, or even brought to action by carry ships. The larger varieties do not have generators or reinforcements (usually), but are much harder to fight with. No matter how big the robots are, they can be killed by one or two sniper shots in the head when caught off-guard.

Besides these ape-like robots, there are a large variety of other enemies. There are tanks, cannon turrets, small firing ships, larger carry ships, special sentry robots, and a few special enemies. Among these, for example, there are giant ships with spherical cannon turrets; to defeat the ship, each turret has to be sniped. One of the Minecrawler pilots has musician guards which shoot strange shapes at you. Some of these special enemies are hard to defeat, while others are very easy and seem to be there just for the fun.

Meaning of MDK

While the actual meaning of the title's TLA is not revealed within the game, the gaming press and fans adopted Murder, Death, Kill, which was coined as a neologism in the film Demolition Man. Yet another possibility is documented inside the game manual, where Kurt's mission is named Mission: Deliver Kindness. In the readme for the MDK demo, it is stated that nobody's quite sure what "MDK" means, it means whatever they need it to mean on that given day. Since the readme was penned on Mother's Day, the meaning for that particular day is "Mother's Day Kisses". It is interesting to note that the title also corresponds to the names of the three characters: Max, Dr. Hawkins, and Kurt.

In the European version of the game, the background images of the installation program present many possible meanings for the letters M, D and K; some silly, some believable, and one of them "Murder, Death, Kill." In the Japanese version of the game on the back cover it says in bold yellow letters: "My Dear Knight"

It is revealed in the "Making of MDK" booklet that came with the "Limited Edition" of the game that the term was actually the game's codename; when Shiny came around to coming up with a name for the game, they chose to stick with the codename.

However, there is no information available as to why "MDK" was chosen in the first place. The British computer magazine, PC Format, in a prelude to an interview they published with the Shiny director, said that the game was indeed called "Murder, Death, Kill" but was changed to "MDK" to give it a lower rating as the rating authorities in Britain felt it was too violent a name.[citation needed] This was then turned into a marketing campaign with various silly meanings for "MDK" given followed by a question mark, such as "Madonna Dates Kylie?" or "Minister Devours Kissogram?".

In the installation screen for MDK2, various meanings are shown scrolling down as a backdrop to Kurt diving through or to an unknown destination with "Murder, Death, Kill" highlighted.

In an interview with David Perry in the RetroGamer magazine released in UK, David revealed that the original meaning of "MDK" was in fact "Murder Death Kill". This can be confirmed by viewing the game's concept video where the game's logo is written with those words on top of each other with the letters "MDK" enlarged. However, because the toy company that was supposed to make toys based on the game didn't like to have those words printed on the toys, the words were removed and replaced with only "MDK". The meaning of "MDK" has since then become a subject of debate.

Trivia

  • MDK was one of two video games, alongside Nanosaur, that were bundled with Apple Inc.'s original 1998 iMac when it launched in August 1998. The game was not included with the later 1999 iMac models.
  • The PC version does not have an intro movie only the PlayStation version does, but there are pieces of the intro in the final video after beating the game, despite the fact it is in black in white.

References

  1. Roger E. Pedersen (15 June 2009). Game Design Foundations. Jones & Bartlett Learning. pp. 33–. ISBN 9781598220346. http://books.google.com/books?id=zFkoEVSM2NkC&pg=PA33. Retrieved 14 April 2010. 
  2. Rusel DeMaria; Johnny L. Wilson (18 December 2003). High score!: the illustrated history of electronic games. McGraw-Hill Professional. pp. 277–. ISBN 9780072231724. http://books.google.com/books?id=HJNvZLvpCEQC&pg=PA277. Retrieved 14 April 2010. 

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