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Lemmings is a puzzle computer game developed by DMA Design (now Rockstar North) and published by Psygnosis in . Originally developed for the Commodore Amiga, Lemmings was one of the most popular computer games of its time, and several games magazines praised the game, giving it some of their highest review scores at the time. The popularity of the game led to development of numerous ports to other systems, including most recently ports to the PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation 3 in and , and the creation of several sequels.

The behavior of the creatures in Lemmings is based on the supposed behavior of real lemmings, who by urban legend are believed to go on migrations en masse that eventually lead to disaster. The basic objective of the game is to guide lemmings to a designated exit through a number of obstacles that prevent you from winning. In order to save the required number of lemmings to win, the player must determine how to assign a limited number of eight different skills to specific lemmings that allow the selected lemming to alter the landscape, to affect the behavior of other lemmings, or to clear obstacles in order to create a safe passage for the rest of the lemmings.

Gameplay

Lemmings is divided into a number of levels, grouped into four difficulty levels. Each level comprises both destructible landscape elements such as rocks, indestructible sections such as steel plates, and numerous obstacles including chasms, high walls, large drops, pools of water or lava, and booby traps. Each level also includes one or more entrance points and one or more exits. The goal is to guide a certain percentage of the green-haired, blue-shirted lemmings from the entrance to the exit by clearing or creating a safe passage through the landscape for the lemmings to use. Unless assigned a special task, each lemming will walk in one direction ignoring any other lemming in its way (save for Blockers), falling off any edges and turning around if they hit an obstacle they cannot pass. They die if they fall from a great height, fall into water or lava or off the map, or get caught in a trap; they also die after being assigned the bomber skill.

To successfully complete the level, the player must assign certain lemmings specific skills. The quantity of skill assignments of each type is generally limited, requiring the player to carefully assign which skills will have to be used in order to successfully guide the lemmings. There are eight skills that can be assigned. Two skills stay with the lemming regardless of how they are reassigned: "Climbers" will climb any vertical surface they hit, and "Floaters" can safely fall off from heights without injury. "Bashers", "Miners", and "Diggers" cause the assigned lemming to dig across, diagonally downward, or directly downward, respectively, through destructible material until they emerge into open air, hit indestructible material, or are reassigned. "Builders" create a rising stairway of up to 12 steps, with audible cues when they are nearly done with their task to allow the player to reassign them if a longer stairway is needed. "Blockers" will reverse the direction of all lemmings that hit them, and cannot be reassigned unless first the ground under their feet is removed. (They can be exploded, though.) "Bombers" will continue whatever they were doing prior to assignment, but after 5 seconds (indicated by a countdown timer above their head) they will stop and explode, taking a small chunk out of any destructible environment around them. While the player is able to pause the game to inspect the level and status of the lemmings, skills can only be assigned in real-time.

The lemmings are initially released at a rate predetermined by the level (from 1 to 99), but the player can increase this to a faster rate. The player also has the option to "nuke" all the remaining lemmings on the screen, converting them all to Bombers, either to quickly forfeit in order to retry a level or to remove any Blockers that remain after the rest have been rescued.

The four difficulty groups—"Fun", "Tricky", "Taxing" and "Mayhem"—are used to organize the levels to reflect their overall difficulty. This rating reflects several factors, including the number of obstacles the player has to surpass, the limitation on the number of types of skills available to assign, the minimum rate of lemming release, and the percentage of lemmings that must be saved.

Two-player mode

In two-player mode, each player can only control lemmings of their own color but attempt to guide any lemming to their own goal
The original Lemmings also has 20 two-player levels. This took advantage of the Amiga and Atari's ability to handle two mice simultaneously. Each player is presented with their own view of the same map (on a vertically-split screen), can only give orders to their own lemmings (green or blue), and had their own base. The goal is to get more lemmings (regardless of color) into one's own base than the other player. Gameplay cycles through the 20 levels until neither player gets any lemmings home. The Atari ST also has a 2-player mode, one player using the keyboard or the joystick, and the other using the mouse.

Two-player levels are also present in the Sega Mega Drive and Super NES versions, along with some levels unique to those versions and produced by Sunsoft, their developer; some of these levels were also found in Oh No! More Lemmings with other designs.

The multiplayer aspect of Lemmings has been incorporated into the variant Clones which can support up to 16 networked players at once.

Development

Mike Dailly, the first employee of DMA Design and one of the programmers for Lemmings, has provided a detailed history of the development of Lemmings entitled "The Lemmings Story". Dave Jones, founder of DMA Design and more recently, developer of Grand Theft Auto and Crackdown, also has commented on the development and success of Lemmings.

Originally, the concept of the gameplay results as a quick demonstration of being able to create an animated character in a 8x8 pixel box as part of development for Walker, a sequel to Blood Money. Dailly was able to quickly produce an animated graphic showing his creations moving endlessly, with additional graphical improvements made by Gary Timmons other members of the DMA Design team to help remove the stiffness in the animation. One member, Russell Kay, observed that "There's a game in that!", and later coined the term "lemmings" for these creations, according to Dailly. Allowing the creatures to move across the landscape was based on a salamander weapon concept for Blood Money and demonstrated with the animations.

Levels were designed based on a Deluxe Paint interface, which allowed several of the members to design levels, resulting in "hundreds of levels". There were several internal iterations of the levels, each designer challenging the others. Dailly pointed out that Dave Jones "used to try and beat us, and after proudly stabbing a finger at the screen and saying 'There! Beat that!', we d calmly point out a totally new way of getting around all his traps, and doing it in a much simpler method. 'Oh...', he d mutter, and scramble off to try and fix it." They also sent internally-tested levels to Psygnosis, getting back the results of their testing via fax. While most were solved quickly, Dailly commented that "Every now and again though, the fax would be covered in scribbles with the time and comments crossed out again and again; this is what we were striving for while we were designing the levels, and it gave us all a warm fuzzy feeling inside."

Each of the designers had notable features in their levels: Dailly's level names generally clued the player to what to do (such as "It's Hero Time", suggesting a single lemming was to be assigned all necessary skills to open the pathway to the exit for the other lemmings) and generally required the player to perform several actions at once, Gary Timmons's levels were minimal with popular culture references in the title, and Scott Johnston's levels were generally tightly packed. Dailly was also responsible for the "custom" levels based on other Psygnosis and Reflections Interactive Amiga games, such as Shadow of the Beast, Menace, Awesome, and Shadow of the Beast II.

These "Crossover" levels also used music from those games, though in ports these levels have been removed or altered to remove such references. After they developed most of the hard levels, they then created several simple levels either by copying the existing ones or created new layouts; as Dailly states, "This I believe is where many games fall down today, they do not spend the time making a good learning curve."

Music was created by Brian Johnson, Scott Johnson's younger brother, and Scott's mother was the first voice of the lemmings. Timmons is credited with the official drawings of the lemmings, as necessitated by the need of Psygnosis for box cover artwork.

The two-player option was inspired by then-present games Populous and Stunt Car Racer. They initially wanted to use a null-modem connection between two machines to allow competitive play, but ended up using the ability of the Amiga to have two mouse pointer devices usable at the same time and thus created the split-screen mode.

Ports

The popularity of the game on the Amiga led to its rapid porting to many other platforms, and it is considered to be one of the most widely-ported video games of all time.

Known commercial ports of the original game include: 3DO; Acorn Archimedes; Amstrad CPC; Applemarker IIGS and Macintosh; Arcade (prototype only); Atari Lynx and ST; Commodore 64, Amiga CD32, and CDTV systems; MS-DOS; Hewlett-Packard HP-48 series; Mobile phone; Nintendo's NES, SNES, Game Boy, and Game Boy Color; OS/2 (demo only); Palm; Philips CD-i; SAM Coupé; Sega Game Gear, Master System and Genesis; Sinclair Spectrum; several Texas Instrumentsmarker calculators; UIQ; Pocket PC and Windows.

While all ports share the same basic characteristics of the game, there are a number of significant differences, generally related to hardware and control restrictions. This may include how skills are assigned, the number of difficulty levels and individual levels within each port, and exclusion of certain words and levels due to their connotation or legal standing,

General game concepts have been included in variants, such as Pingus for GNU-based systems where the player is required to safely guide penguins across landscapes using a similar array of tools. Another variant, Clones, adds internet multiplayer and new game modes to the core gameplay.

In early 2006, Sony released a remake of Lemmings for the PlayStation Portable (PSP) handheld console, developed by Team17. It features all 120 levels from the original game, 36 brand new levels as well as DataPack support (similar to the Extra Track system featured in Wipeout Pure), and a "UserLevel" Editor. Every level in the game is a pre-rendered 3D landscape, although their gameplay is still 2D and remains faithful to the original game. UserLevels can be constructed from pre-rendered objects, in a similar manner to unofficial level editors such as LemEdit for DOS Lemmings and LemmEd for Amiga Lemmings 2: The Tribes. UserLevels can be distributed by uploading them to a PlayStation-specific Lemmings online community. The soundtrack also marks the final video game score created by longtime composer Tim Follin after he announced his retirement from the industry in mid-2005. Lemmings for the PSP was warmly received, with a 76/100 average rating at Metacritic; the primary complaint about the game was the otherwise bare port of the game to yet another system, as commented in the Eurogamer review, "But we've all done Lemmings at one time or other, there's nothing new about this."

Later, in , Team17 produced a similar remake of Lemmings for the Sony PlayStation 3 for download through the PlayStation Network. The game has the similar graphical improvements as the PSP title, as well as on-line scoreboards and additional levels developed for high-definition display, but lacks the ability to create and share levels as the PSP version offers. The inability to create levels or play competitively online resulted in the game receiving mediocre reviews, with an average Metacritic score of 59/100.

The game was also ported for play on the PlayStation 2 with use of the EyeToy in October by Rusty Nutz. The basic change in the concept is that the player must stretch and use his/her limbs in the recorded picture to aid the lemmings. This version was also panned by critics, being nothing more than a straight port of the PSP game with the added difficulty of getting the motions correct for the EyeToy, and only received an average Metacritic score of 67/100.

Reception

The original sales for Lemmings on the Amiga topped 55,000 copies on the first day of sales; in comparison, Menace sold 20,000 copies and Blood Money sold 40,000 copies cumulatively. With all the ports included, it has been estimated that over 15 million copies of Lemmings have been sold since 1991.

Several gaming magazines of the time of its first releases gave Lemmings very high scores, and only the level of graphics and sound received some small amount of criticism. David Sears of Compute! in his review of Lemmings for the PC, stated that "Perhaps Psygnosis has tapped into the human instinct for survival in formulating this perfect blend of puzzle, strategy, and action." Amiga Computing stated that "Lemmings is absolutely brilliant. Psygnosis have managed to produce a game that is not only totally original, but also features the kind of addicting gameplay that will keep you coming back for more time and time again." A review from the Australian Commodore and Amiga Review (ACAR) magazine stated that "Above all, the concept is simple, and the game is a lot of fun."

Lemmings is considered to be a gaming classic. In their review for the PSP port, GameSpot identified that "Lemmings is a game-design classic that is as compelling now in its newest iteration on the PlayStation Portable as it was 15 years ago." In , Computer Gaming World listed Lemmings as the 12th best game of all time out of 150 games. EDGE magazine listed Lemmings as the 82nd top game of all time in a July, list.

Lemmings has also been called a predecessor of the modern real-time strategy video game genre. An Amiga Power article claims that Lemmings "was the first major game to introduce the 'indirect-control' concept", an element that is now common in many RTS games. As noted more recently by 1UP, "The biggest difference is that instead of trying to outmaneuver another player's army, you're trying to outwit the level designers' cruel design sensibilities." Lemmings introduction of RTS elements has been noted by author Terry Pratchett; in his novel Interesting Times, an armymarker of golems is controlled in a fashion reminiscent of the Lemmings user interface. When readers asked if this was deliberate, Pratchett responded, "Merely because the red army can fight, dig, march and climb and is controlled by little icons? Can t imagine how anyone thought that..."

The game was reviewed in 1991 in Dragon #171 by Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk Lesser in "The Role of Computers" column. The reviewers gave the game 5 out of 5 stars. The Lessers reviewed the MacIntosh version of the game in 1993 in Dragon #193, also giving that version 5 stars.

Sequels

Lemmings has inspired a number of sequels, some which have modified the core gameplay but still involve the use of lemming skills to rescue lemmings. Xmas Lemmings and Oh No! More Lemmings contain the same gameplay as Lemmings but provide a different set of levels to the player. Lemmings 2: The Tribes introduces several new types of skills that can be assigned to the lemmings in addition to new levels. Similarly All New World of Lemmings (The Lemmings Chronicles in North America) alters some of the core mechanics of gameplay by reducing the number of key skills and adding other mechanics more typical of a two-dimensional platformer. 3D Lemmings brought the game into the third dimension with skills to take advantage of the additional dimension. Lemmings Revolution returned to the original's 2D gameplay and core skillset and mechanics, but featured pseudo-3D graphics, and some of the platformer mechanics originally introduced by The Lemmings Chronicles.

Spinoffs

Two spinoffs were made with drastically different general gameplay. Lemmings Paintball is an isometric action game where the player takes part in a lemmings paintball match. The Adventures of Lomax is a side-scrolling platformer where the player controls one lemming named Lomax to save other lemmings in a similar manner to how Sonic the Hedgehog rescues his friends who were captured by Dr. Robotnik.

Songs

At the time of Lemmings creation, there was a growing awareness of music copyright. Therefore, most of the level themes are arrangements and reworkings of classical and traditional (i.e. public domain) tunes to avoid copyright problems. Songs in the game included: A total of 21 songs featured in the game, including one for each of the four "custom" levels based on other Psygnosis games, though these were removed in other ports, as their representation was believed to be against copyright laws.

One of the original songs is re-arrangement of music that was used in Amiga animation called "Puggs in Space". Psygnosis later used the character from the demo in a game called Puggsy.

See also



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