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Bored Games Hot

I really couldn’t leave all the space in “Trash Culture” to Ken and I really couldn’t leave Mike alone being the only one to be publishing stuff related to video games. I’ll bet a large sum of money that pretty much everyone who’s reading this (or indeed who’s ever played a designer board game) has spent some time playing video games and that a substantial number of those people have spent a substantial amount of time playing them. I know I have. After all, to some extent, gaming is gaming and video games have the advantage of not requiring an opponent and being tremendously engrossing.

So, it’s rather a shame that I feel the need to label the bulk of them as complete crap. I’ve given up on the video game hobby. I’d sell my console if I didn’t use if as a DVD player.

Before we go any further I probably ought to warn you that as a relatively new parent, I simply don’t have time to indulge anything other than my favourite hobbies – boardgaming and drinking alcohol, which happily for me go extremely well together. So it could be that what you’re about to read is just the embittered whinging of someone who can no longer afford to lavish an entire sick day off work playing Halo, as was once the case. But read on, and I hope you’ll agree I’ve got some valid points to make.

If you pick a video games review site – or better yet once of the sites that collect reviews from different sources, averages them out and ranks games accordingly – you’ll notice immediately that the most popular games by far fall into five categories. There are first and third person shooters, real time strategy games, platform games, sports games and role-playing games.

I can recall playing Doom for the first time many years ago and finding it completely brilliant. Not only was it new and inventive but it had the – still unique in my opinion – distinction for an action game of having a number of tremendously hard expansion maps that required good planning and strategy to win through. Shooters of various types have lead game rankings ever since and in that time, beyond graphical and AI improvements, what’s actually been added to the genre in terms of gameplay? Sod all, that’s what. Half-life got its reputation as an astonishing watershed in design largely on the basis of not having any cutscenes. I mean wow, that’s just so.. not.. innovative. The last FPS I played was half-life two which had exciting moments but which I found mostly rather dull because it just offered nothing new than tens of other highly-rated shooter games I’ve played before. We’ve also got online play nowadays which sounds exciting but is fairly worthless. I’ve found, to my cost, that young adults are never, ever going to compete with obsessive teenagers in twitch games. And after you’ve been fragged for the 200th time in succession, it start to loose its appeal.

Real time strategy games used to completely obsess me because I loved the sensation of gradually building up a huge empire of troops and the thrill of being able to build a new unit of structure for the first time. Then it dawned on me that they weren’t actually strategy games at all – they were twitch games in another guise. Winning in an RTS is all about building things as fast as possible, and nothing to do with strategy. I tried playing Warcraft 3 but that realisation weighed on me like a lump of lead and I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to play more than a few missions.

Platformers have never been my cup of tea. The biggest “innovation” in this genre is the advent of 3-D platforming which I can actually remember being invented in a ZX Spectrum game back in the eighties (head over heels for those who can’t remember). Other than that, they’re all the same – jump around, collect items (some of which are essential, and others of which move you toward a 100% collection bonus) and search for hidden minigames. The latest Grand Theft Auto games are actually platformers of a sort IMO and, in truth GTA3 was the last game that actually impressed me very much but after playing the sequel (am I the only person who preferred GTA3 to Vice City?) which was basically more of the same, I really couldn’t be bothered win San Andreas.

Don’t even get me started on role-playing games. If you want to play an RPG, then play a pen and paper one. It speaks volumes for the parlous state of the video game industry that one if it’s brightest sparks and most innovative designers can’t come up with anything better than Fable. There’s also sports games, most of which can’t actually offer anything like a passable simulation of the chosen sport and most of which have stuck to a tried and tested formula for the chosen sport since the dawn of time.

So, in a nutshell, the gaming industry is tired and uninteresting, reliant completely on younger and younger kids and the instant-immersiveness that even average computer games can achieve to get sales. The one thing around that is a bit different is the Wii, and it’s no wonder to me at all that jaded gamers are flocking to it in droves.

But what about my favourite style of game, the boardgame? Surely there must be some decent boardgame style games out there? Well, some of them are half-decent but in the end, just like an RPG, it’s always more fun to play the real thing against real life opponents. AI is always limited and is prone to repeating the same mistakes, making games solvable in a way that play against real people usually isn’t.

What’s left then? Well, computer games are good for two things, in my opinion, both of which work for me because they’re difficult-to-impossible to achieve in real life face-to-face games. The first is hidden information – computers can hide lots and lots of information in a way that would be hugely impractical in a game. Anyone who wants to know how tough it is to do in a boardgame should try the old SPI wargame City-Fight in which there were three identical boards – one for each player to keep track of their units on and a central board for units which both players could see. The second is implanting vastly complicated rules behind a simple interface and this has the added advantage of keeping those rules secret from the player, allowing them to focus on the strategy of the game rather than exploiting the rules, as so often ends up being the case in face-to-face games.

And it doesn’t take a genius to work out that the resulting games are mostly computer wargames. So in the interests of balance, and a wider appreciation of cool games, I’m going to finish up by listing five games which have passed my test of “great”. And my test of “great” for most media (films, music, etc) is that it’s still enjoyable after many years of repeat play. All of these games I’ve been playing for over ten years, and I still play occasionally today, or at least would do if I had time. Most of them make the best possible use of hiding information and complex rules.

We’ll start with one that doesn’t. Angband is an infuriatingly addictive piece of freeware dungeon crawling which proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that you don’t need great graphics to make a great game, since the visual interface is constructed entirely of ASCII symbols and nothing else. Remember the addictive quality of Diablo that came from going into the dungeon again and again, just to see what turned up? Remember how ultimately pointless it was since gameplay came down to click-click-click? Well Angband has that same obsessive collection mania about it combined with some proper strategy during the fights from the virtue of it being turn-based. Angband also has one other completely unique quality – if you die in Angband, you don’t just loose your stuff, it makes your character file unusable. If your character dies, you really die, and you have to start again – and I’ll warn you that Angband is very difficult and takes many hours of gameplay to beat. I’ve never actually done it, though I’ve come close. Genuine challenge is something that’s really missing from modern video games, and Angband has it in spades, resulting in an extraordinarily tense and exciting game. You can download Angband from http://rephial.org/release although I’d recommend you also read the Angband Newbie Guide if you don’t want to face endless rapid and messy deaths trying to work out what’s going on. Be aware that Angband has many variants on the theme which can be got from elsewhere, further expanding the longevity of the game.

My second all time great isn’t one game, but a series of games, although it truth I’ve never bothered progressing beyond the second in the series. It’s the Civilisation games from Sid Meier. There’s so much to love about these games – the epic scale, the early thrill of exploring an unknown landmass, the challenge of the micromanagement required to succeed in later eons, the multiple paths to victory. I’ve never played the Civ boardgame, but I can’t imagine it’d have a patch on this. The earlier versions of the game have a freeware implementation, which you can download from http://freeciv.wikia.com/wiki/Download.

My third pick is a commercial game that surprised even me. Being English and male I inevitably have a number of friends who are football mad (note – this is actual proper football as in a game where the players kick a ball with their feet, not spend most of their time standing around going “hut, hut, hut!”. We don’t use the “S” word around here). On visiting one of them one day I found him hunched over his PC playing Championship Manager 2, and drooling over the fact he’d just managed to buy a fat and aged Gazza to join is lower division team. Now I have little interest in or knowledge of football, but as I sat with him I began to share the absurd feeling of obsession that the game has the potential to build. I went out and bought a copy the next day and – get this – I revised for my final exams at university in the time it took my cranky old PC to calculate the results of all the games each match day. The game has since gone from strength to strength but those interested take note – the game is now called Football Manager, and the Championship Manager series is but a pale imitation.

The next game is probably the oldest on the list. It’s a ZX Spectrum game that holds the distinction of being – as far as I know – the only computer game ever released directly by Games Workshop. The game is called Chaos, and players take the role of wizards battling for supremacy on a featureless board – you can have up to eight wizards with a mix of human and AI players as you choose. You get a random selection of spells from the ordinary – lightning bolt – to the bizarre – gooey blob – but the bulk of your spells summon creatures which you can move around to do battle. The addictive quality in the game comes partly from making as best use as possible of your random spells but the game also has a neat twist. All the spells have a percentage chance for success, with the more powerful creatures like vampires and dragons being virtually impossible to cast out of the gate. However, you can increase your chances of success by altering the alignment of the universe (on a scale from Law through neutral to Chaos) by casting spells of that alignment, which makes spells of the same alignment easier to cast and those of the opposite alignment harder. With creatures you have the choice of creating it as real or illusion. Illusory creatures always cast successfully and are just as powerful as the real thing, but they can be instantly destroyed by the disbelieve spell, which every wizard has. Give its crappy graphics, horrible interface and the fact it’s full of bugs it’s kind of hard to communicate how good this game is. Happily though, there’s an online Flash implementation you can play and the rules are also available.

My final pick is possibly the most streamlined yet complex and rewarding computer wargame ever published. I first came across the system in the old Commodore 64 game Overrun and was instantly impressed by how it made handling the complexities of squad-level combat an absolute synch. So I rejoiced to discover, many years later, that the game has not one but three freeware PC implementations, together with commercial versions of said implementations which improve on it in various ways. It’s beyond me why someone would bother memorising the rules for an playing ASL when you can let the Steel Panthers engine not only handle everything for you but add a huge dose of realism by doing proper fog-of-war and not letting you see the behind-the-scenes calculation for working out hits and damage. You also get the added longevity of having scenarios and campaigns from conflicts across the world and throughout the 20th century all in one package. Confusingly, the same game is implemented by two different people and I have no idea which – if any – is the best. Firstly there’s SPCamo who offer a modern and WW2 version of the game from their website and then there’s Matrix games who just have the WW2 implementation.

What are you doing still reading after I’ve pointed you at all those downloads? Go on, get on with it, and we’ll see you back in daylight sometime in 2009.

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Comments (44)
  • avatarMr. Bistro

    Anyone who likes Angband might give Nethack a try. Nethack is can be mind-bendingly hard, but it scratches the PC RPG itch in a deep and intelligent way. This roleplaying from before the days of elfin Japanese amnesiacs who must save the world.
    http://nethack.org

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    I completely agree that video games have largely become pretty stagnant- when you go back and look at the great games of the past, they really had a lot of heart and scrappy charm that all of these big budget Hollywood-style blockbuster games just can't possibly muster. There' s no sense of discovery, wonder, or imagination and even when it is there (in games like MARIO GALAXY or TWILIGHT PRINCESS) it just feels more like nostalgia than innovation.

    I've always preferred NETHACK over ANGBAND...but I _adore_ Roguelike games in general...there's some really fun gaming there, and you don't even have to have a graphics card. By far the best way to RPG on the computer. Fuck MMORPGs.

    As for RTS games, I find most completely tedious at this point because there really isn't much strategy. That being said, I think Relic's work in the genre is completely unmatched. DAWN OF WAR, the 40K one, is fucking great. It does have that building race feel, but the wide range of specialist units and overall coolness make it a total blast to play. COMPANY OF HEROES is likely the greatest RTS ever published (apart from maybe TOTAL ANNIHLATION)- it actually has a lot of tactical depth. It's more about deploying the right units in the right place and keeping your men alive. It really feels like a real time SQUAD LEADER. I really like the TOTAL WAR games as well- they have a good balance of real time action and turn-based strategy.

    Also nice to see you mention STEEL PANTHERS...that's a great game, very complex and dense but it's a nice option for wargaming solo.

    I dunno...I love video games, even some of the most derivative ones, but it is disappointing that there's not a whole lot of real creativity going on outside of certain parameters

    NO MORE HEROES looks really interesting...the designer claims that he's more influenced by Jodorowsky than video games.

    Oh, and another thing...somebody distract Ken...don't get me started on GUITAR HERO. It's fun. It's cute. But why the hell would you spend hours of your life playing GUITAR HERO would you could spend equivalent time actually learning to play guitar?

  • avatarmikoyan

    Hmmm...Right now I'm playing Call of Duty 4. It's pretty fun but I'm not sure it ranks up in my alltime list.

    Like you, I love the Civillization series. Nothing like going through history in a night. When I first got the game, I started playing and next thing I knew, the birds were chirping. There aren't many games that have done that for me.

    However if I had to rate all time favorites (not in any particular order):
    1. Nethack. You mentioned Angband, not a bad game but if you want the grandaddy go for nethack.
    2. Silent Service. Back in the days when a sub game was lining up the shot and firing. Didn't have to worry about other aspects.
    3. F-15 Strike Eagle. Although, I will admit I do like the more complicated versions of flight games but this one boiled it down to just flying and shooting. Plus, you could wipe out Libya and at the time that was pretty fun.
    4. Ghost Recon. It was the first first person shooter I could actually play (others make me dizzy). Plus it had an interesting arc. I'd put Call of Duty here but Call of Duty is an extension of Ghost Recon for me.
    5. Red Storm Rising. Same as Silent Service, but modern.
    6. Sim City. The original one and not the one's where they made things too complicated. Worrying about the power grid was bad enough, why did they have throw water into the mix?
    7. Air Bucks. I'm an aviation nut. It was nice to buy 747's...:)
    8. Empire. Another ASCII game that drained many hours of my life. Kind of a precursor to Civ in that you could direct cities to build different units.
    9. LPMuds. WoW is nice but can't quite be text based and imagination. For me the best was End of the Line. You could kill Corporal Hicks and then Televangelists. Second was one called Hero Mud because it was set in Ann Arbor.
    10. Flight Simulator. Since this should have 10 and I like planes.

    My problem with many video games is that they made things too complicated. I like the feel of doing something without having to worry about the minutae of doing that something. I just wish they would get it right on the levels. Sometimes easy is too easy and the next level up makes it too hard.

  • avatarKen B.

    Because it doesn't take equivalent time to get good at Guitar Hero as it does the real thing?


    I totally disagree that video games are 'stagnant'. The Wii is single-handedly redefining how video games are made and played and consumers are rewarding the innovation with bucketloads of dollars. Sure, that's a sign that before now we were stuck in a rut, but that's always the case with late-in-cycle console generations. Look back to the dying days of the SNES/16-bit stuff...it was all fighting games and re-hashed 2d platformers with the occasional JRPG thrown in for good measure.


    Even still, there are plenty of games where the innovation is obvious and the shackles of stagnation have been shed. Look at games like Shadow of the Colossus which showed that you could redefine the gaming experience with a mixture of the familiar and the new. Katamari is some stupid shit but no one can argue that it was innovative, and it seems to have hit "Franchise mode" so somebody must be buying it.


    The problem sometimes with innovation is the risk of alienating the very people you're trying to reach. Final Fantasy was stuck in a BIG TIME rut, so they decided to change the whole combat experience for XII, something that just hasn't been done since, oh, part I. What happened at first? The fanboys HOWLED about the changes. But innovation was needed and the series is better off for it.


    I'm as retro as a lot of gamers get and I can honestly say the Xbox/Playstation/Gamecube era was probably the finest the gaming industry has ever seen, and now the Xbox 360 is chugging along with some really great stuff like Bioshock (the immersion is INCREDIBLE), the Wii of course has games that weren't possible before, and the PS3...well, god bless it, it's hanging in there.


    You want to talk stagnation? Let's talk boardgames instead of video games...and I...oops, that's a big-time future article of mine. Better save that stuff.

  • avatarRliyen

    Half-life got its reputation as an astonishing watershed in design largely on the basis of not having any cutscenes. I mean wow, that’s just so.. not.. innovative.

    That's exactly the way I felt about Half life. I didn't see what made it so great. Headcrabs and the barnacles were cool.

    But what the FUCK were they thinking when they came up with the GONARCH!???

  • avatarMalloc

    I have been a parent for nearly 5 years no so I am way out of the video game scene.... I do not miss it.

    I have, however, started playing lego starwars with the boy... thats is a great little simple game.

    -M

  • the*mad*gamer

    Video games today are nothing but "push button movies". Some video game designer is more proud of his cut scene than injecting fun into the games. The Wii is a real innovation in that it is reducing the "beard and belly" population by getting your ass off the couch!

    Today's video game designers (and movie makers for that matter) have more tools in their toolbox today than ever before. But having more tools doesn't mean you are guaranteed to build something worthwhile. Sometimes having less tools forces you to focus on being creative.

    Anybody remember the computer game, "Wasteland"??

    I remember having a blast playing that game! It was crude but very fun!

  • avatarvialiy

    Half-Life 1 was a great game, its innovation at the time was that the story was told in-game. HL2 was a huge dissapointment for me, mainly just a buggy/speedboat race from one end to the other.

    If you want an excellent boardgame-style turn-based computer game, check out Crush! Deluxe. It's kinda Blood Bowl in the future, but with 3 players. In short, you run around with your team in big room, looking for the ball in containers scattered around (only one of these has the ball). Once someone found it, the team has to carry it to the opposite corner of the room for a "touchdown" and end the game. Lots of rules for tackling, maiming and killing, pushing, jumping, exploding, spraying acid goo, etc... There's a tech tree for individual players, equipment to buy (all equipment is illegal, if the ref finds out you're out of the game!), a 12-team league mode, and IIRC 8 races to choose from.

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    Because it doesn't take equivalent time to get good at Guitar Hero as it does the real thing?

    Yeah, but if you do one you can become a millionaire rockstar and teach the world to sing...do the other you wind up standing in your living room with your boxer shorts playing a jumped-up version of Simon Says. ;-)

    I think this whole "Wii is revolutionizing video games" thing is a load of crap. And I love Wii, it's the only console I own right now. At first, I thought it would be revolutionary, but most of the games that have come out are either pretty much the same as anything else on any other console or they're terrible implementations of the control scheme. All this talk of Wii being somehow "more active" than other systems is nonsense too...play GALAXY, METROID 3, or TWILIGHT PRINCESS and you're still sittin' on the couch pushing buttons. It's all marketing to make it appear more acceptable and accessible to people who don't usually play video games, a novelty that wears off for most when WII SPORTS gets old.

    Ken is right though, prior to a couple of years ago it was all fighting games and JRPGs. That really was a period of stagnation.

    I dunno, I just don't buy all the gloss and hype...CALL OF DUTY 4, for all the bells and whistles, is essentially the same game as WOLFENSTEIN 3D. Like Weeks says, games today are all just pretty much pushbutton movies. I'm more interested in a fun, creative use of the medium than pushing polygons toward higher levels of realism.

    WASTELAND is completely fucking brilliant and may very well be my favorite computer game of all time. I think I played through the game like twenty times when I was a kid. It really engaged my imagination to tell a story rather than just showing me a bunch of expensive rendered cutscenes.

    I do think it's pretty disappointing that all these big-budget, glossy video games still can't match the fun and immersion of some of those old games.

    The problem is that video games are a HUGE entertainment industry now that rivals movies. So there's more money and less creativity.

  • avatarSpace Ghost

    Angband is still my favorite game. Whenever I get a new laptop for work, it is the first thing I install....so easy to play for just 5 or 10 minutes at a time.

    The really cool thing about it is that it is easy to edit the fils so you can create your own monsters, characters, artfiacts, weapons, etc. I had a great time making a Dragonlance version of Agnband with the difficulty ratchedted up a little bit.

    In general, I think the push-button movie statement is right on target. While I liked DOOM 3, there was part of me that missed just running around frantically trying to bust out of the level like on the original DOOM. Even Might and Magic V suffers from this...more cutscences in the battle that only serves to slow down gameplay and exploration. Hell, they even throw cutscenes into NCAA Fottball 08 -- completely unnecessary and extends game time probably 10 minutes (even if you skip them all; if I want to see the p;ay again, I can use the instant replay functionality) -- although we could see this trend coming with Super Tecmo Bowl's cutscences.

    Now that Barnes says it, Guitar Hero is kind of like Simple Simon; however, it is a great party game and addictive as hell. My eyeballs almost melted out of my sockets the other night because I ended up playing it so long -- I just couldn't put it down.

  • avatarmikoyan

    Damn, I forgot about Wasteland. Another game I played the hell out of. I liked the fact that you didn't necessarily have to follow a certain pattern but everything pointed you to base cochise.

    I never played Wolfenstein because I couldn't handle the motion in it. I can play modern shooters and I like the story arc in Call of Duty 4. I just wish there was more flexibility.

  • avatarRliyen

    WASTELAND is completely fucking brilliant and may very well be my favorite computer game of all time. I think I played through the game like twenty times when I was a kid. It really engaged my imagination to tell a story rather than just showing me a bunch of expensive rendered cutscenes.

    I do think it's pretty disappointing that all these big-budget, glossy video games still can't match the fun and immersion of some of those old games.

    WASTELAND, ROADWAR 2000 (in all its buggy glory) and DEATHLORD, were my favorite games on the oversized calculator that was a C64. Granted, I liked the ULTIMA series, but it crapped out after the 5th installment.

    It's a fucking shame that the closest that the market has gotten to them was FALLOUT and MORROWIND.

    I just finished JADE EMPIRE recently and although I loved the story, it was ultimately KOTOR with Asian clothes. The saving grace? References to All Men are Brothers (in the form of the Black Whirlwind, the actual character from the story.), voice acting by John Cleese, and KANG THE MOTHERFUCKING MAD!

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    Now that Barnes says it, Guitar Hero is kind of like Simple Simon; however, it is a great party game and addictive as hell.

    It _is_ Simon Says. Tones and colors. The only thing different is that you're using a toy guitar and it has a hip "ironic" approach to rock music.

    It is a fun party game, no doubt. It's a blast to play with friends and there's some really great songs in there. But these people that just obsess over it and spend countless hours on it are wasting their time. It's not worth the time or effort to beat the game when you could spend the same amount of time learning to play a real song on a real guitar.

    Damn, I forgot about Wasteland. Another game I played the hell out of. I liked the fact that you didn't necessarily have to follow a certain pattern but everything pointed you to base cochise.

    And it took game designers how long to get back to open ended, off-the-rails games like that? I remember the first time I played WASTELAND I wound up at Cochise WAY early- you could really just walk right up there at the beginning of the game if you wanted to. Got my ass kicked, of course, but part of the fun was knowing that I was going to have to get ready to take it on.

    I know this is going to sound really weird and almost totally flies in the face of F:AT doctrine, but could it be that video games today have _too much_ theme, _too much_ narrative, and _too much_ detail?

  • avatarPat

    I played a hell f a lot of Intellivision, Collecovision, Atari, Nintendo, Sega, SNES when I was young. I gave up on video games for several years until I picked up a pc in 2000. I was in heaven playing Panzer General, Red Alert, Close Combat (which is as close as any game has come in real time to ASL) and I kept at it for years. Children coming along really used up most of the time I used to use on video games, and this is a good thing. When I do get around to playing something - I have every title that comes along - I generally find the experience lacking these days.

    Weekes hit the nail on the head as I have found more games these days are little more than an interactive movie where gameplay has suffered. I have found myself re-loading re-releases of some of the classic turn based wargames from over a decade ago.

    Thank goodness for Matrix games. HPS Squad battles are quite good and I'm going to lay down the cash soon for Close Combat Modern Tactics and Armageddon Empires. Essentially my video game hobby has done a 180 and now the most fun I have are with the turn based titles - Close Combat excluded but the pacing is so anti twitch that it feels like a turn based game moving in real time.

    John Tiller’s Campaign Series (East Front II, West Front, Rising Sun) is a fun game where you play at platoon level, decent graphics, bombastic music and explosions yet is a good wargame with loads of chrome – hex and mini’s. You can fight out a campaign at battalion through Corps level (I don’t recommend this unless you have loads of time to kill). Boatloads of historical battles encompassing the whole war are included with every piece of kit and squad makeup being represented.

    I still have some fun with Company of Heroes though, however even this starts to give me the feeling that I can’t keep up with the RTS formula anymore without getting a seizure.

    I actually loaded up an SNES emulator the other day…

  • avatarbenny lava

    Video game designers are just doing what the market dictates. Gamers say they want innovation, but as long as they (and by they I mean "me") keep shelling out bucks for the same old same old, game companies will keep cranking it out.

    There are still new ideas to be found out there, but they are few and far between on the major consoles. Interestingly, the most fertile ground for innovation on consoles like the PS3 and the 360 are their online stores. The downloadable titles there are lower budget and therefore more apt to take risks.

    One system I haven't seen mentioned that has several innovative titles is the Nintendo DS. I think people my age tend to ignore it as a 'kiddie' system (and heck, it is), but it is a great little piece of hardware with some great games.

    Ultimately, though, whether you are talking about video games or boardgames, the bottom line is: are you having fun? When I'm playing the 5th iteration of the Ratchet and Clank series I know there's nothing 'new' there, but I don't care. For me, it's fun. And that's the key - figuring out what brings you the most enjoyment.

  • avatarMerkles

    As far as old-school innovative stuff that's still fun, I'm surprised that I haven't heard any of the Infocom games yet....particularly the Zork series.

    Now, not all the Infocom games were great---but they were immersive in a way that hadn't been done before. Heck, I remember when my Dad got an Atari 800 and I was able to buy with my paper route money a Zork game (with the huge, wasteful, but cool packaging!)

    Maybe I'm a bit older than other contributing here so far--but those games still stand up to the test of time (my 11 year old son is loving them now)

  • avatarbenny lava

    One aside on the Guitar Hero (and Rock Band, by extension) discussion. My 14 year old son regularly kicks my ass in GH and RB, but he spends a lot more time playing his real guitar(s). So there are people who do both, and do them well, but they are definitely the exception rather than the rule.

    Oh, and Rock Band totally powns GH.

  • avatarmikoyan

    Never played the Infocom games.

  • avatarPat

    One of my buddies has been playing guitar for over 20 years. His wife suggested they pick up GH and he replied "why the fuck would I do that when I've got three guitars downstairs crying for more attention!" She bought it and he can't put it down...

    Not for me though.

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    Wow, Mikoyan...get thee to the ZORK games immediately, that's a substantial deficit in your gaming experience. They're still brilliant. I always tell the youngsters that I've been playing video games since before they even had graphics.

    I'm not trying to say GUITAR HERO isn't fun, or that it doesn't have a place. It is a different activity than playing guitar and it does require a lower level of commitment overall.

    I'm just a lot more satisfied knowing tha t I can pick up my guitar and play that incredible opening riff to "Sweet Jane" than being able to get a high score on "Rock You Like a Hurricane" on the hard level of GH. At the end of the day, learning "Sweet Jane" was probably easier.

    Really, the biggest innovation in video games over the past 10 or so years has been the shift from them being an outsider/"nerd" pastime to being a socially accepted and culturally endorsed one. A large part of that is due to the incorporation of mundane, non-arcane themes (SIMS for example) and the development of realtime social interaction (MMORPGs ).

  • avatarmikoyan

    If I remember correctly, you could tick people off in Wasteland and get banned from certain cities.

    Like I said, I liked the fact that it was pretty much free form but stirred you in the direction you needed to go. I would love to see a format like that now that there's better graphics. I wish I could go exploring in Call of Duty, but I guess the folks shooting at me would tell me otherwise.

  • avatarmikoyan

    Never had a desire to play the Infocom games. I suppose a MUD was close though.

  • avatarFellonmyhead

    Best RTS: Close Combat series, of which the Bulge version grabbed me the most.

    Best Turn-based wargame: Combat Mission series (I tried two - Beyond Overlord and the Eastern front one whose name I forget).

    RPG's? How dare they call those computerised approximations that in the first place!!! How is anybody supposed to play a role effectively when the restrictions of a computer-based milieu pervade the entire atmosphere? I tend to steer clear of them.

    For FPS's, after a couple of years playing them amongst friends online we reached the conclusion the difference in systems had much more to do with victory than skilful play. Those with 56K modems usually lost to those with ISDN, who usually lost to those with broadband (when that came around). Those with more responsive systems tended to get the edge over those with the same level of communications (but there was no real solid evidence to prove this as the measurable difference was minimal). We never had the luxury of playing on a LAN with similar systems for each terminal user, but I expect that would have really sorted out the men from the boys.

  • avatarPat

    Combat Mission for the east front is "Barbarossa to Berlin".

  • avatarDiogenes

    My favorite roguealike was "Omega". Buggy as all hell but had a bit of story about it.

    Second the Combat Mission recommendation. I've not tried the modern versions, but CMBO and Barbarassa to Berlin are still on my hard drive.

    Half-Life 2 may have been same ol' /same ol' but if you picked up the "Orange Box" you got Portal along with, which was a enjoyable physics puzzle game. Too short, but still a good two hours worth of slightly demented fun.

    A interesting take on the FPS genre is Taleworlds "Mount & Blade", but it is so critically understaffed that I'm not sure they'll ever get out of beta. Still worth the $25.00 they're charging now, and a steal two years ago at $19.00.

    Also worth looking for is the older Rollercoaster Tycoon games (1 and 2). The third iteration was crap, but the first two were great.

    Finally don't forget about Armageddon Empires. It wears a bit thin after a while since the AI will get its ass kicked by a decently tuned deck but it takes a quite a few plays through before you get there,

  • avatarDiogenes

    By the way, lots of "interactive fiction" stuff, including many of the Infocom titles including all three Zorks are available for free on the web these days. www.ifiction.org is a good place to start if you are interested.

  • avatarJuniper

    Oh, and another thing...somebody distract Ken...don't get me started on GUITAR HERO. It's fun. It's cute. But why the hell would you spend hours of your life playing GUITAR HERO would you could spend equivalent time actually learning to play guitar?

    That's exactly the reason that I stopped playing PUERTO RICO and instead became a real slave owner.

  • avatarmikelawson

    Thank God for abandonware.

    I just found a copy of Master of Magic to play around with; that's something I haven't played since 1998 or so.

    --Mike L.

  • avatarmikoyan

    Rollercoaster Tycoon was fun as well but too much of a random dice fest....Hehe...

  • avatarjeb

    http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/rock_band.png

  • avatarRliyen

    I just found a copy of Master of Magic to play around with; that's something I haven't played since 1998 or so.

    --Mike L.

    I still have my CD-ROM version. Oogly to look at, but still fun to play.

    The game series that takes the mantle of MOM and runs with it is the Age of Wonders series. First one is cool, but broken (Air Elemental stomps all!). The second and third are great.

  • Horacio Silva

    I'm playing videogames instead of boardgames, but it's not my fault. I wanted to get Starcraft, but I didn't wanted to pay the shipping to Mexico; enter my uncle: he went to LA last week (a quick visit to the doctor) and I give him 100 bucks and a piece of paper with "Starcraft" and "Arkham Horror" on it. What did I get? wait for it..."Starcraft Battle Chest". So, what the hell, let's kick some Protoss and Zarg ass.

    H

  • Mr Skeletor

    Wow, who let the sad old fucks in here.

    As someone who was into video games in his youth and is now alowly getting back into it, I call bullshit on this 'lack of inovation' discussion.

    Games these days are WAY better then they use to be.

    Half life had no inovation over Doom? That's as dumb as saying nexus ops is just risk.

    Guitar hero is way more fun than guitar practise, and way easier too.

    In summary go jerk of on your 1 buttion joystick you pack of fucking old wankers.


    P.S. Where did you get Master of Magic from? I tried playing it (awesome game!) but could never get the sound to work on windows XP.

  • avatarozjesting

    This seems to be console talk mostly...but if we include PC games the one genre not mentioned was "adventure" games. I would think the Zork games started it all...and most woudl argue it hit it's craziest puzzle peak with the Myst series. But there were some very fun story/puzzle adventures indeed! The Monkey Island stuff, Gabriel Knight, and my all time favourite Full Throttle! "They are selling MINI VANS Ben! MINI VANS!!!"

    On console I see little talk of racing games either. I was never one for the car games which dominate...but 1080 Snowboarding on the N64 was still the coolest "slide" I ever played. (props to "Tricky" as well for crazy jumps...but 1080 was a better racer imo)

    In fact the more I think about it the more I miss my N64. Pilot Wings was a curious way to spend an afternoon trying to land a hang-glider on a mountain...and I also recall a jet-racer thing that was tough as!

    On Xbox I adored Deathrow as a "sport" title.

    But As I too have traded my consoles away due to 3 kids...it is rare that I walk mast an EB store with any need to look in.

    Thanks for the memories consoles...but the board is where it is at for me now!

    (I reserve the right to re-enter the console world when the kids hit an appropriate age) ;)

  • avatarozjesting

    Oh yeah...Duex Ex was the last great game I played on PC...and perhaps only one of a handful I actually managed to finish!

  • avatarKen B.

    I've just accepted I'm a console gamer for life. For whatever reason I've been gaming since a tot but PC gaming rarely appeals to me. Probably because I'm a cheap bastard with a crappy PC. Always have been, always will be. I use the PC to surf the internets and play ROMs, that's about as far as it goes.

    I've got Frank's back, though...games now are better than ever. The classics still shine through of course, but we turn a blind eye to the mountains of shit that came out with them. For every Super Metroid there was a Super Alfred Chicken, Home Improvement, or some really bad licensed THQ game (before that company got its shit together). So throwing something like Balls of Fury: The Video Game against Chrono Trigger is a biiiiiit disingenuous.

  • metalface13

    There are loads of great games currently available.

    Just because there haven't been many innovative revolutions doesn't mean innovative evolutions haven't been occurring in video games in the past decade.

    Right now the systems to watch are DS, Wii and Xbox 360. Granted I only have DS and Wii but I'm really jealous of games like Rock Band, Mass Effect and Bioshock on 360.

    Oh and don't even go with the 'why play guitar hero when you can learn to play the guitar?' well why don't you learn to shoot real guns instead of Call of Duty 4, or become a real lawyer instead of play Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney? Because they're games!

    Anyways I'm surprised nobody has mentioned turn based strategy games like final fantasy tactics, advance wars or fire emblem. Those are great games. Also Heroes of Might and Magic 3 is also one of my personal favorites.

    The adventure general is also coming to life on the DS. There's Hotel Dusk, the Phoenix Wright games, the upcoming Professor Layton and even Zack and Wicki on Wii.

    Angband is great. Never played nethack. there's rogue like games for DS too in the "mystery dungeons" games.

    There are also surgery simulation games like Trauma Center, those are pretty innovative. I don't really know any other games like that.

    Just because there are hundreds of lame and knock off games that come out every year, but there are still dozens of good ones too.

  • avatarmikoyan

    One of the things that I liked about MUDs is the fact that they had user generated content. This opened up the world to just about any possibility. Second Life comes close but doesn't quite hit the mark.

  • avatarFellonmyhead

    metalface13:

    "Also Heroes of Might and Magic 3 is also one of my personal favorites."

    Yes, that's another I have played a lot of; fun until you figure out under the attractive surface it's just a game of numbers. Once you've figured out to defeat x unicorns you need y basilisks and z medusa, it's time you went multiplayer. And multiplayer is so much easier and more fun around a board.

    Well it is for me, and if it isn't for you why are you even here?

  • kakupacal

    Anyone dying for that old MASTER OF MAGIC fix should look no further than Age of Wonders - Shadow Magic. A turn-based fantasy game far, far better than Heroes of Might/Magic, etc. with the same spell and empire building that MoM introduced way back in the when.

    And as for video games being less innovative and fun these days: Guitar Hero, Portal, Galactic Civilizations, Freedom Force, Wii fucking bowling, etc. etc.

    There's still tons of fun to be had...

  • avatarmikelawson

    Frank, I found a copy of DOS Box that allowed me to play some of the old MicroProse games: MOO, MoM and Darklands. I had to do some mapping for the backslash because the HP keyboard I have isn't a typical standard keyboard. After the mapping, it wasn't a stretch to get the games running.
    Only hitch is that Darklands won't play the vocals, only the music. Not a big deal for revisitng an old friend.

    If you look for abandonware on the web, you ought to find old copies around.

    --Mike L.

  • metalface13  - re:
    Fellonmyhead wrote:
    metalface13:

    "Also Heroes of Might and Magic 3 is also one of my personal favorites."

    Yes, that's another I have played a lot of; fun until you figure out under the attractive surface it's just a game of numbers. Once you've figured out to defeat x unicorns you need y basilisks and z medusa, it's time you went multiplayer. And multiplayer is so much easier and more fun around a board.

    Well it is for me, and if it isn't for you why are you even here?

    You're right. I can't have more than one hobby.

  • metalface13  - re:
    kakupacal wrote:
    Anyone dying for that old MASTER OF MAGIC fix should look no further than Age of Wonders - Shadow Magic. A turn-based fantasy game far, far better than Heroes of Might/Magic, etc. with the same spell and empire building that MoM introduced way back in the when.

    And as for video games being less innovative and fun these days: Guitar Hero, Portal, Galactic Civilizations, Freedom Force, Wii fucking bowling, etc. etc.

    There's still tons of fun to be had...

    Yeah I've played Age of Wonders too. It's not bad.

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