Alone in the Dark

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Alone in the Dark

Way back when the graphic adventure genre was relatively new and ruled by games such as the King’s Quest and Leisure Suit Larry series, the concept of a survival horror game was an untouched subject area.  There were games using a haunted house motif, such as Poltergeist, released in 1982 for the Tandy TRS-80 Color Computer orUninvited, Infocom’s graphical text adventure released in 1986, but the game that set the gold bar standard and helped to inspire the flourishing of the entire subgenre was Infogrames’ 1992 classic PC game, Alone in the Dark.

alone in the dark box art
Box front for Alone in the Dark (1992)

Alone in the Dark was set in the late 1920′s, with gamers assuming the role of either private detective Edward Carnby or young heiress Emily Hartwood, who enter the sprawling Louisiana mansion, “Delcarto” in search of a piano supposedly stored in the attic.  The house is reputed to be haunted, and it’s last owner, Ms. Hartwood’s uncle Jeremy, committed suicide in highly unusual circumstances.  If that’s not creepy enough, after the player enters the mansion, the front doors slam shut without any help from mortal hands.  Like any good actor in a teenage slasher flick, Edward (or Emily, depending on who the player chose), heads up the stairs to find the attic.  And once they reach the attic, the game begins.

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Alone in the Dark for Panasonic 3D0

Alone in the Dark is a game that dabbles in the  Cthulhu mythos.  The horrific situations found within the game display their Cthulhulian influence, and even the mansion is discovered to be actually named after Shub-Niggurath, H.P. Lovecraft’s The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young.  However, the creatures that Edward and Emily encounter are more standard fare (and are a mixed bag when it comes to frightening appearance), and do not possess the mind and world-shattering power of Lovecraftian monsters.

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Cthulhu references in Alone in the Dark (1992)

The atmosphere is aided by both creepy sound effects and a well-thought out musical score.  For example floorboards creak as they’re walked on, and the character’s footsteps echo through the room as an eerie reminder that you’re the only human in the house.  The music switches to a more aggressive melody when creatures appear, and returns to a sombre melody when they’ve been dispatched.  I still have great gaming memories of hearing the strains of Strauss’ The Beautiful Blue Danube in the ballroom (you could put records in the phonograph there and see what happens).

alone in the dark gameplay
Exploring the attic in Alone in the Dark

Some people say that Alone in the Dark was the very first PC survival horror PC game using the Cthulhu Mythos as a theme, but most forget that there was another game published within the same time period that can also lay claim to that title.  MicroProse published Magnetic Scrolls’ The Legacy: Realm of Terror in 1992, a game that was set in a haunted mansion, with bizarre Cthulhulian creatures to overcome.  The two had similar concepts, but of the two, Alone in the Dark was the better game, so usually gets all the credit.

alone in the dark legacy box cover
Box front for The Legacy: Realm of Terror

The game used a different style of graphic engine than gamers were used to.  2-D polygons (colored, not textured) were used to render 3-D objects in real-time, with very quick responses to whatever action the player attempted.  These 3-D objects were then placed against standard pre-rendered backgrounds.  The result was an impressive illusion that the entire game world was being rendered in three-dimensions.  It also permitted unusual camera angles that could be quickly switched from one perspective to another on the fly, which is what Alone in the Dark is usually remembered for by those who played it.

alone in the dark gameplay
Under attack in Alone in the Dark

Alone in the Dark did very well for Infogrames, and was released on multiple platforms, including MS-DOS in 1992, the NEC -PC9801 system in 1993, and the Panasonic 3D0 and Apple Macintosh systems in 1994. (It was also scheduled to be ported over to the Atari Jaguar system, but, alas, that project was canceled.)  Its success resulted in a number of sequels, including Alone in the Dark 2 (released in 1993, and featuring another haunted mansion), and Alone in the Dark 3 (released in 1994 and sending the player to the Old West).  The franchise was rebooted in 2001 with Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare, where the player got to explore an entire island, and again in 2008, with Alone in the Dark, taking the series to the modern age.

alone in the dark inventory screenshot
Inventory management in Alone in the Dark

The success of the original Alone in the Dark franchise gave the entire survival horror graphic adventure genre its birth. In fact, every time you start up a game of Left4 Dead 2, give thanks to the developers of the granddaddy of them all, Alone in the Dark!

Knights of the Sky

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The great thing about Knights of the Sky was that you felt completely vulnerable throughout every mission – even just a few direct hits with a machine gun could send you spiralling to a fiery death, which led to some tense dogfights. ~Lewis Packwood

Knights of the Sky

Format: Amiga Genre: Flight Simulator Released: 1991 Developer:MicroProse

I was playing a demo of Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. the other day. The graphics were superb – the representation of Rio de Janeiro was almost photo-realistic – but the game itself was deathly dull. Like pretty much all modern flight sims, it basically amounts to lining up your sights over some plane or tank that’s so far away you can’t actually see it, waiting for a lock on, then pressing the fire button. *Yawn*

knights_of_the_sky

 

Unfortunately, it seems that as real-life planes rely more and more on flight computers to navigate and select targets, the computer games based on them become less and less enjoyable. Perhaps by the time we reach Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. 10 you won’t even need to do anything – you could just step outside for a cigarette and let the game play itself.

Thank heavens then for Knights of the Sky, a blesséd antidote to all this modern fly-by-wire, fire-and-forget, head-up-display, ensure-contents-are-piping-hot nonsense. Here’s a simulation where top speeds rarely climb into triple figures, where fire and forget equates to lobbing a hand grenade out of the cockpit and hoping for the best, and where your head-up display mostly consists of a petrol gauge and a compass. Welcome to World War 1.

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The great thing about Knights of the Sky was that you felt completely vulnerable throughout every mission – even just a few direct hits with a machine gun could send you spiralling to a fiery death, which led to some tense dogfights. Pretty much every mission I attempted would end with me coaxing a critically damaged plane back to my home base after a few too many close encounters with the enemy. The wings would be practically falling off, the petrol gauge would be virtually on empty, and I’d be wrestling with the joystick to just keep the plane going in a straight line… Most of the time I didn’t make it, but on the rare occasions where I somehow managed to land my charred mass of wood and canvas back on friendly soil, I’d be practically dancing round the room in excitement. And, to my knowledge, there are very few flight sims that can inspire dancing.

knights_of_the_sky

 

By far the best aspect of this game was the two player mode. There were surprisingly few Amiga games that you could play over a link cable, but these games were among my favourites, and most of them are (or will be) on this list (I’ve already covered one of them – Stunt Car Racer).

Knights of the Sky just came alive in two player mode. As much fun as it was having my plane shot to pieces by nameless Germans, it couldn’t even come close to the sheer thrill of having my plane shot to pieces by my Amiga-500-owning mate who lived round the corner. As I said earlier, dogfights were tense in Knights of the Sky, but they were a good deal tenser when playing against a friend, especially if he unplugged your joystick in the middle of a loop-the-loop (thankfully, the computerised Germans never learned that little trick).

knights_of_the_sky

 

Actually shooting down your opponent’s plane was surprisingly hard – the view from your cockpit was incredibly restrictive (most of your view was taken up by instruments and a bloody great big wing in front), so it was really difficult to keep the other plane within your sights. Also, because the planes were so slow, actually turning round to try and get on the tail of your opponent was a constant struggle. And any slightly more advanced manoeuvres were a risky business – the planes could only fly at low altitude, so if you went into a steep dive there was a good chance you’d end up ploughing into the deck, and climbing steeply would generally cause your plane to stall. In fact, participating in a dogfight was kind of like watching two valium-addled geriatrics wrestling each other for the last Werther’s Original. In slow motion.

knights_of_the_sky

However, the very fact that the planes were so completely rubbish was what made Knights of the Sky so exciting. Because it was so much of a struggle to fly your plane – and even to find, let alone shoot at, your opponent – winning a dogfight created a palpable sense of achievement. Especially if you could do it without unplugging your opponent’s joystick.

 

Of course, the game is not without its faults. The graphics, for example, could be politely described as ‘uninspiring’, and they look positively Stone Age by today’s standards. Also, the single player campaign could become a little dull after a while, and there wasn’t really enough variety to hold your interest for extended periods of time.

But for the two player mode alone, Knights of the Sky more than deserves to be on this list, if only because it proves that flights sims can be exciting after all.

Civilization II

Civilization II

Civilization II

Just a quickie (oooo er) about Civilization II. After much twittering about this game the other day I decided to dust off my old PC copy and play it again. I found the disc in amongst a few other classics neatly stored away in a disc holder. Afraid it wouldn’t work (the disc looks pretty beaten up) I proceeded to install, it worked fine. First thing I noticed was that it was quite refreshing to install such a playable game that quickly, less than a minute from install to loading up (and not a sign of a game update required). I dove straight in to the action.

Civilization II

I made a custom world, medium map, played at prince level and stupidly selected the raging hordes for barbarians, I played against 4 other civilizations. I selected to be the Romans myself, so I could employ the unfunny name of ‘Naughtius Jamesius’, some things never change. The game started well until I realized I’d completely forgotten how to play, tactics and strategies were absent from the beginning and soon the 4 other civilizations were ploughing ahead with warfare, advancing technology and building wonders of the world. My only saving grace was the fact my people seemed to like me, therefore I could address my fellow leaders from a throne instead of a rock.

Civilization II

30 minutes into the game and the other civilizations knew I was weak (I didn’t need the pop up report to tell me that – puny Romans), it was time to make alliances and play dirty, let’s just say the Persians and Greeks had no idea what was coming and would pay for their earlier mockery. Triumphs however were short-lived, 2 hours later I was destroyed by the Vikings, Mongols and eh, barbarians. The score I reached really isn’t worth mentioning here. Still, the time playing this flew by and it is still an amazing amount of fun, I’ll be playing again over the weekend (now I’ve had a warm up game), so hopefully it’ll go a bit better next time.

Definitely one of my all time favorite turn based strategy games, I still prefer this version than some of the later Civilization games, just as addictive as it was back then too.

Pirates

Once upon a time it was a lot more avante-guard to be a pirate, long before the unwashed masses embraced the Disney Jack Sparrow movie juggernaut, and even before some wag convinced enough people to celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day.  In the heady days of the dawn of the PC graphic adventure, pirates were nothing more than literary devices or the stuff of all things dastardly; pirates portrayed in PC games were more Blackbeard or Captain Hook than Errol Flynn. And then along came Sid Meier.

Sid Meiers - Pirates - PC - Gameplay screenshot

Box art for Sid Meier’s Pirates!

Sid Meier is a gaming legend today, a name that is as much a brand and promise of great gameplay, but in 1987, this was not the case.  To be sure, Sid Meier’s name already carried some weight in the simulation community, as a designer of games such as F-15 Strike Eagle and Silent Service.  His games were always enjoyable and well-coded, but more importantly, sold well.  The marketing gurus at MicroProse suspected that people were buying Sid Meier games because they were designed by Sid Meier, so it seemed reasonable to help make their buying decisions for them by announcing his involvement directly in the product title.  From this reasoning the very first game to feature “Sid Meier’s…” in the game title was born: Sid Meier’s Pirates!

Sid Meiers - Pirates - PC - Gameplay screenshot

Sid Meier – Gamer godThe game was for single players, made long before the mad, lemming-like multiplayer rush of today that all gaming companies seem to have embraced.  (Wait, was that an editorial?)  It was an open-ended game, letting the player make the choices on where to travel and what to do, with the only caveat being that eventually the player’s character would grow too old to continue on the pirate’s path, and would retire.  Depending on what actions the player took (that is, what rewards and successes they achieved during the game), the game would then give a litany of how their character lived the rest of their days, from a lowly beggar in the streets to the prestigious role as adviser to the King.  The game world itself was created using a series of questions-and-answers, beginning with what pirate era the player wanted to play within (1560: The Silver Empire; 1600: Merchants and Smugglers; 1620: The New Colonists; 1640: War for Profit; 1660: The Buccaneer Heroes; and 1680: Pirates’ Sunset).  This was followed by which nationality they wished to be (Dutch Adventurer, English Buccaneer, French Buccaneer, or Spanish Renegade), which Difficulty Level they wished to play in (Apprentice, Journeyman, Adventurer, or Swashbuckler).  Finally, a Special Ability was chosen: Skill at Fencing, Skill at Gunnery, Skill at Medicine, Skill at Navigation, or Wit and Charm, each with its own advantages (for instance, Wit and Charm was used to keep on a Governor’s good side; whereas Skill at Medicine kept injuries to a minimum and prolonged the character’s life).

Sid Meiers - Pirates - PC - Gameplay screenshot

Swordplay in Sid Meier’s Pirates!The game world was then generated from these questions.  Of course, the final variable was the copy protection, which requested when either the Silver Train or the Spanish Treasure Fleet arrived in a particular city.  Failure to provide the correct answer stacked the odds so far against the player that even the game manual stated, “Heed the advice and start over, otherwise you’ll find your situation most bleak.”  Takethat, software pirates!  Actually, in some ways the manual was as interesting as the game, as there was a wealth of historical information on pirates and the historical context within which they plied their trade.  Well worth reading!

Sid Meiers - Pirates - PC - Gameplay screenshot

Decisions, decisions in Sid Meier’s Pirates!

As for actual gameplay, the live of a pirate was sometimes short, but always challenge-filled and exciting, which the player soon discovered for themselves.  Since a pirate fought with a sword, fencing was part of the game.  Since pirates sailed the seas to prey upon treasure-laden ships, navigation and naval combat was part of the game.  Since pirates often sold their loot to merchants (money laundering was alive and well in the pirate era), trade was part of the game.  Since pirates sometimes sacked small townships, that, too was part of the game.  Since pirate ships didn’t magically manifest crewmembers to sail the seven seas, recruitment was part of the game, and since a silver tongue helped a pirate live a longer life, diplomatic contact with town governors was also part of the game.  All in all, this was an impressive pirate simulation.

Sid Meiers - Pirates - PC - Gameplay screenshot

Pirates! Gold for the Sega Genesis

If the Career Mode was too large of a time investment, Sid Meier’s Pirates! offered six historically accurate scenarios to test your swashbuckling mettle.  Each scenario was in a different time period, and each offered unique challenges to overcome.  These scenarios were: John Hawkins and the Battle of San Juan Ulua  – 1569 (wherein you have a slow, but powerful galleon to command, with many ports unwilling to trade and a fleet not powerful enough to force them to comply); Francis Drake and the Silver Train Ambush – 1573 (can you match the verve and skill Drake showed battling the Spanish Fleet at the height of their power with only two small ships?); Piet Heyn and the Treasure Fleet – 1628 (your fleet is powerful, but the season is late and finding the treasure ships is becoming a difficult task and will take expert planning to locate and dispatch); L’Ollonais and the Sack of Marcaibo – 1666 (an abundance of manpower but a shortage of powerful vessels make ship-to-ship battles difficult, but port sacking attractive, with the additional challenge of the fragile nature of your men’s morale);Henry Morgan the King’s Pirate – 1671 (the dangers of having a powerful pirate fleet in both naval power and manpower in that you must keep everyone fed, content and treasure laden to succeed); and Baron de Pontis and the Last Expedition – 1697 (the munchkin scenario, in which you have a large strike force and a more than reasonable certainty to win any battle, making the only challenge how much treasure can you loot?).

Sid Meiers - Pirates - PC - Gameplay screenshot

Pirates! for the Nintendo Entertainment System

Sid Meier’s Pirates! was first released in 1987 on the Apple II, Commodore 64 and IBM PC (PC Booter) platforms.  It was quickly ported over to the Macintosh (1988), Amstrad (1988), Commodore Amiga (1990), and even the Nintendo Entertainment System (1991).  It would be remade in 1993 with improved graphics and sound, then published under the title Pirates! Gold, for IBM PC (both DOS and Windows), Macintosh, and – because Nintendon’t – the Sega Genesis. The remakes didn’t end there, as it was again remade in 2004 for Windows XP, returning to its original title ofSid Meier’s Pirates!, and then again in 2008 for mobile devices, imaginatively calledSid Meier’s Pirates! Mobile.  Perhaps in the next decade it will be remade once again.  (I recommend they try Sid Meier’s Pirates! Gold as the title for next time.)

Sid Meiers - Pirates - PC - Gameplay screenshot

Box art for Pirates! Gold

Sid Meier’s Pirates! was not only popular amongst gamers, it also performed well in the eyes of the gaming press.  It was awarded “Action Game of the Year” by Computer Gaming World, and also the Origin Award for “Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Computer Game of 1987”.  The game also ranked at #18 in the Computer Gaming World’s 150 Best Games of All Time.  Clearly, this game has remained in the gaming public’s eye for a reason, making Sid Meier’s Pirates! a worthy addition to anyone’s game collection.

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Magisterrex has been gaming since the days of Pong and still owns a working Atari 2600. He tends to ramble on about retro games, whether they be board games, video games or PC games.  If you’re into classic old school gaming check out his blog here

Civilization

Sid Meier's Civilization

A game I fondly remember playing again and again, burning the midnight oil and gaming the night away because of it, was Sid Meier’s Civilization, released by MicroProse Software in 1991.  This retro MS-DOS based game had it all: outstanding gameplay, a well-executed concept, and superb graphics (for its day), and was yet another hit from Sid Meier and his team.

Players started with a single settler (a covered wagon) at the dawn of civilization, chose a location to found their first city, and from that built an empire as the game timeline progressed to the Space Age.  Sometimes you’d find another computer player right next door, and either had to keep the peace with non-stop diplomacy, or – more times than not – send in the troops to crush them like the insects they truly were.  Up to six other civilizations were out there to discover, and they all had to be dealt with, one way or another (either the Americans, Aztecs, Babylonians, Chinese, Egyptians, English, French, Germans, Greeks, Indians, Mongolians, Romans, Russians, or Zulus.)

Sid Meier's Civilization

Yet this wasn’t just yet another military simulation; players had to build their empires by monitoring the happiness of their citizenry, providing improvements that would encourage growth in their cities, establish trade routes, and pursue technology advancements through scientific research.  Neglect anything for too long and the consequences could be dire: fall behind in the technology and your troops might be like the Polish Cavalry facing the Blitzkrieg on horse with sabres.  Forget to keep your citizenry content and your cities begin revolting.  Overlook trading with other empires and find your city improvement budgets limited.  Limit your internal and external upgrades of your cities, and watch them spontaneously Neglect to build up your military might and watch as your cities fall to the armed might of your bitter enemies – or worse yet, random barbarians raging across the continent. A strong empire builder needed to be aware of all aspects of their empire!

Sid Meier's Civilization

But, wait, there’s more!  This was an incredibly deep game.  You start out as a Despot (where do I sign up?), but as the game progressed and new ideas developed as a result of technological improvements, other forms of government presented themselves.  Each had its advantages depending on your goals and current state of your empire, but each also had disadvantages.  It wasn’t a great idea to switch to Democracy in the middle of a military build-up or full-blown campaign, as your citizens tended to be on the pacifistic side.  On the other hand, if you wanted to push the envelope on scientific development, ruling over your cities with an iron fist as King wasn’t a winning strategy either.

You could also gain serious advantages over the other empires by building one of the many Wonders of the World.  These took a long time to build, using up many resources, but could be the difference-maker between victory or defeat.  These Wonders varied by game era, and could become obsolete with new technological advances.  Some had limited appeal and should only be looked at under a specific set of circumstances, however.

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This game has not only stood the test of time, it has spawned many sequels: Civilization II, III, and IV, CivNet (the first multiplayer Civilization), Civilization Gold, and Civilization Revolution, as well as many similarly-themed games, such as Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, Civilization: Call to Power, Colonization, and Master of Magic.  And the franchise doesn’t appear to be running out of steam anytime soon.  If you love retro games and you haven’t played the original Civilization, what are you waiting for?

 

I’m Becoming A Korean (Gamer)

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This isn’t a cry for help, as you can see I’m back to work (posting this drivel), but instead it’s me doing the Simpson’s Nelson point and ha-ha to people with families and regular 9-5 jobs that think that playing Dragon Age and beating it over the course of two months is a great gaming experience. ~Honorabili

I’m Becoming A Korean (Gamer)

Basically, for the past month or two my girlfriend has been alien to me so I’ve reverted back to my old girlfriend: MY COMPUTER. This happened shortly right after I got back from my trip from E3 to which she did not get invited to go with! =P Anyways, half a week after I got back AT&T decided to be a bunch of useless fucks and decided to have my internet connection go down for about ten days… this in the middle of my addiction to League of Legends (which was already starting to die) and World of Tanks, which I had just dumped 20 dollars into and had a subscription to which has now expired.

Internet Serious Business
Internet Serious Business

What to do, what to do? Go back to the basics! I pretended it was the 1996 and that I didn’t even have internet gaming (for the most part). My brother and I were going nuts as to what to play, since without internet connection we were cut out (literally) from the virtual world needed to play a modern pvp game (since few companies make hotseat stuff anymore, other than for usually some console games). We both said at the same time “Master of Orion 2, multiplayer, over the LAN”. What a brilliant solution to being stuck in the dark ages. After a little bit of work and installing the IPX network protocol, we got the game to work like a charm over the LAN using DosBox. We even made a CD image of the game which runs better than a full HD install and streams from a hard drive anyways. After a few days we were playing as if we had never stopped playing in the first place. Even when the internet came back on, I went on League of Legends and I thought the level of strategic thought now required to play it was nothing compared to the complexity of a legendary 4X strategy game.

Anyways… after a short while I checked my email and saw they had sent me some free codes for games to play so I logged into my Steam to add and download them. Boy, what a mistake… They were having a huge sale with stuff 90-75-50% off, so I just wasted about 200 dollars on that shit and then started to game non-stop. Like basically, since then days have been a blur. I haven’t posted anything on here in a good while, not since my E3 article which took J.A. Laraque forever to get me to finish it (well after the event had already ended, which was already when nobody cared to read it). I am now awake on some fucked up schedule that lets me play with all the European gamers as well as the Asians! I take power naps, drink about 3-4 cafe con leches (cafe lattes) AND 1-2 Red Bulls a day before I start playing pvp games. I go from Mount & Blade, to Master of Orion 2, to League of Legends (doing my daily XP bonus), to World of Tanks (again with that daily XP bonus bullshit, feels like a job!) to Dirt 3 (I beat it today, so now doing multiplayer races against a lot of Germans) to Fable 3 (which I just destroyed) to Monday Night Combat to AI Wars to … well you get the idea. Gaming nearly 24 hours a day, I barely begin to scratch the surface of even a fraction of all the games I have… On top of that my PC keeps dying more and they keep releasing more cheap (and in my case sometimes free) games.

I bought an ATI 6870 card to replace my dying underclocked ATI 3870 but I only had it for 3 days since I sold it to fix a client’s machine. Now I think I’m going to build a machine that uses the AMD Phenom II X4 980 Black Edition Deneb 3.7GHz 4 x 512KB L2 Cache 6MB L3 Cache Socket AM3 125W Quad-Core Desktop Processor but we’ll see since they’re always releasing new ones but I’m pretty sure that will be the winner.

This isn’t a cry for help, as you can see I’m back to work (posting this drivel), but instead it’s me doing the Simpson’s Nelson point and ha-ha to people with families and regular 9-5 jobs that think that playing Dragon Age and beating it over the course of two months is a great gaming experience. (insert rant saying something like “fuck all games with DLC” here) =P I’m starting to get a system down as to when a game will be shorter than a day for me, it pretty much sucks, especially if it doesn’t change as I replay it and it’s currently selling for around 40-50 bucks on Steam or some other distro. (ahem, Fable 3 in this case) I don’t have any children or a wife and yeah sometimes I forget to eat while gaming but even then I’m a fat bastard so it’s not like I’m at risk. ;] I’m Korean for my games but not just for Starcraft or Guild Wars, but all of them!

On a serious note, much during my internet down time I got to read the Master of Orion 2 manual A LOT and it made me really sad that they no longer make 200 page user manuals like that that were actually worth reading and it also made me really sad that Microprose (probably my favorite game company) has been dead for a long time. They sure don’t make them like that anymore! Klackons FTW!

Anyways, I’m out, going to go troll some noobs and work more on my trolling reviews of more games I wasted my money on! Game on!!!

GOG Sale – Master of Magic

Master of Magic cover
Master of Magic cover

GOG Sale – Master of Magic

The grand daddy of Magic meets Civilization games (literally) is finally available on Good Old Games for $5.99. This game had many improvements over the original Civilization 1, that we now see in modern games, and the later sequels of Civilization.

You could make cities, just like in Civilization but you could do things like boost production or change the terrain using spells. Your armies level up (to a degree), as well as you getting hero units which can dramatically change the way your armies behave (sort of like Heroes of Might and Magic except that these heroes fight). You could boost army performance as well by enchanting their weapons, stats, etc. You could boost heroes as well by giving them magic items.

You research spells, manage your economy, explore areas that have monsters or the armies and cities of other wizard’s empires, etc. You cast spells in combat or in general to manipulate the world. The game is AMAZING and one of my favorite strategy games of all time. Basically, any of the early games published by Microprose were! (Civilization 1 & 2, XCOM 1 & 2, Master of Orion 1 & 2)

Click here to go to the sale!

Memories of Gaming 1997-2003

3dfx logo - a symbol of quality
3dfx logo – a symbol of quality

Memories of Gaming 1997-2003 by Honorabili

Around the year 1997, I started to go a lot to ebgames to buy a lot of PC games. Rather than go for whatever was the top title that week, I would always check out what games they had for sale in their bargain bin. I did buy hit games like Carmageddon, Fallout 1, Master of Orion 2, and Grand Theft Auto 1 but for the most part from 1997 til about 2003, I stuck to buying cheap games. The bargain bin had a lot of failed games that were either bad or had failed in their marketing and distribution and nobody knew about them or they were simply budget titles that did not have the best graphics but had awesome enough gameplay that they got released.

My criteria for buying these games was that they had to cost usually about $1-10. For me to buy one that was $15, it had to have been highly recommended or praised. This shopping included buying used copies of games as well. I also bought a lot of stuff based on the brands of developers and publishers. Almost anything that got made by Microprose and Interplay was bought for sure. They were my favorite company in those years up until Brian Fargo lost control of the company and Herve Caen destroyed the company. Because I would still play the popular titles at the time but I would also played a ton of obscure and lost titles, I gained a good understanding as to why games and gaming companies fail. As far as Microprose goes, went they got liquidated I remember buying all of their games (multiple copies too) for 25 cents a piece!

Back in 97-03, my life consisted of going to college, hanging out with my friend Bruce and little brother, watching a ton of VHS movies which we usually rented from Future Video or Hollywood video (both are out of business now), playing a ton of video games, and buying video games almost every weekend. Usually Bruce or my brother and I would go and scout out 3-4 stores at a time seeing which ones had the best deals and stock. We would go a lot to The Falls, Miami International Mall, Dadeland, and later Dolphin Mall. I usually had a policy of buying at least one game each time I went into those stores, even if it was a crappy $1-2 game (of which I bought plenty of!). I remember one time that Bruce and I went in to buy what was either Fallout 2 or Carmageddon 2 and we ended up walking out with about $300-400 of cheap games.

After buying a bunch of these games, we would test out a bunch on the crappy LAN we built using our main machines which were initially powered by AMD K6-2’s and our bitch computers usually were a bunch of trade-ins I got from my PC repair/building business that were Celerons or Pentium I’s or 686’s. Sometimes we would just setup multiplayer games of a specific game to see if we could get it to run because maybe the multiplayer component of a game was utter crap.

I remember very well when I tried to run Carmageddon 1 on my AMD 486 DX-4 100 Mhz and the game was a slide-show. Quickly after that I jumped to my AMD K6-2 266 Mhz with 128 MB of RAM and a Diamond Stealth 2000 video card tied to a Creative 3dfx Voodoo 2 with 4 MB of RAM. I got addicted to Glide games quickly… Thanks to my gaming I got a lot of orders for gaming computers which paid for my college and taught me more about the real business world than many classes I took and books I read ever were able to show me.

What I like about 97-03 was that I saw the explosion of graphics acceleration for PCs. We also experienced the graphics acceleration and CPU wars. Some casualties of the graphics acceleration were were 3dfx, S3 and PowerVR. Some victims of the CPU wars were Centaur, Cyrix, and VIA. I remember the race to hit 1 Ghz with AMD hitting it stable with their Athlon and Intel’s 1 Ghz P3 being a complete mess that melted. A lot of hardware that comes to mind of these days are: 3dfx, the TNT 2, Voodoo 2 and 3, AMD K6-2 and K6-3, Pentium 2 & 3, Athlon and Athlon XP, Matrox, ATI vs nVidia, Radeons vs GeForce cards, AMD vs Intel, SDRAM & DDR, PC100 & PC133, introduction of SATA drives, introduction of RAID to gaming PCs.

Around these years we also started to see a differentiation between the kind of gamers that were attracted to PC gaming vs console gaming. I also began to see that for PC gaming some years were good strong years and some years just about nothing good came out.

In these years we also saw a giant growth in the availability of better broadband and the explosion of the internet (and the dot com bubble burst). In terms of gaming this improved multiplayer games and the availability of pirated software and games. We saw stuff like Scour and Napster and WinMX rise and fall. Then came torrents, which are still going strong.

Apart from the usual pirated games, we saw the rise of emulation. Emulation has always been around just about, even in the 60s and 70s with mainframes trying to emulate rival companies operations. Certainly around the time the AMD K6-2 and Intel Pentium II were commonly available we saw a lot of good NES and SNES emulation, as well as Sega Genesis, and even c64 (which doesn’t take much to run) and the Amiga emualators (which took a lot to run when they first came out). Playstation 1 emulators were out, as well as Nintendo 64 but initial performance and availability of these was terrible. Around this time I got to know well sites such as zophar.net. You also saw the growth of MAME and ROMs for all sorts of systems going around.

These years also saw an explosion in video game and computer music remixing. I even took part of this, even killing RKO, the home of c64 remixes. General video game remixing blew up on sites such as OverClocked Remix. I made a lot of good friends at remix64 and micromusic.

Some PC gamers in 1997-2003 were either of the camp that cared only for framerates (FPS junkies) or image quality. Around the late 90s, I felt that 3dfx had the best graphics but lowest frame rates, then came ATI, and with nVidia having highest frame-rates but lower quality renders.

We also saw around these years the rise of the mp3/ogg files. Many games before used proprietary sound formats and also a lot of MOD tracker formats. CD quality audio became a standard for games around this time. Initial games at this time had actual CD audio tracks incorporated into the game CDs.

Other trends include the further increase of popularity of first person shooters in the form of the Doom games, Quake series, Unreal Tournament series, Half-Life, Counterstrike, Medal of Honor and Call of Duty, Far Cry, etc. We saw just about the death of turn based strategy games and the explosion of more real time strategy games. Although Ultima Online was around, then came the explosion of Everquest (which made me a lot of money), and other MMOs.

Conclusion:

These were great times for gaming for my friends and I because back then we had the time to do it. Later on complications such as girlfriends and wives and shitty jobs and children interfered with our hobby. The equivalent of me getting cheap games these days are the Steam sales and the gog.com sales. I have enough old games that I can relive parts of the old days any day I want! (well, except having my old friends to LAN it up with)

Steam Sale – all of X-COM for $2

X-COM 1 Manual
X-COM 1 Manual

Steam Sale – all of X-COM for $2

The X-COM games are the best tactical combat games where you take on aliens with great AIs. You can get all 5 games for $2 total through Steam.

The two first games are the best ones and they’re totally worth getting, at any price.

The link to the Steam sale is the following:

http://store.steampowered.com/sub/964/

Master of Orion

Master of Orion box cover
Master of Orion box cover

Master of Orion 1 (MS-DOS) Review by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:

“The original explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate space mega empire game.”

Overall Score:

10 out of 10

Overview:

This is the grand daddy, 5000 lb gorilla of space empire games. From the now dead Microprose, this is one of those games, among XCOM and Master of Magic and Civilization that made that company a gaming legend.

You take the role of the immortal emperor of one of many emerging races that just discovered the ability to travel to other star systems and begin the competition for colonization, later leading to war, and galaxywide politics as to who will win the war for supremacy or the votes of all nations as the race to unify the galaxy as the leader of a mega empire (ending the game).

The game consists of you taking turns (non-simultaneous) with your rivals, managing your planets’ development, research directions (allows multiple research projects at a time vs 1 in later space empire games, which I think that’s unrealistic), your spy projects (they can sabotage, steal tech, be sleepers), your diplomacy (make alliances, actually never do almost, and trade tech, start trade deals, threaten and demand tribute, end and start wars), and conquer conquer conquer. You can orbitally bombard planets to dust basically or be smart about your killing (because later the weapons can literally scorch all populations out of existence, even one ship) and enslave, I mean welcome the conquered population to your empire.

There are different races that each has an advantage, whether a bonus in diplomacy or faster production or research or better combat skills (space or ground combat, which is good for taking over planets) or spying or their people breed like rabbits or some don’t require any terraforming whatsoever (which is a major part of the game, being able to actually claim and live on planets aka breathing is a major technology).

The game is won be either eliminating all rivals or becoming the new emperor of a unified star empire.

This is the game that inspired most future space empire games such as Space Empires, Galactic Civilizations, Sword of the Stars, Sins of a Solar Empire, etc.

Fun Factor:

This game is like crack. If you love micromanagement and having to defend 6 fronts at a time, this is the turn based strategy game for you. Since the game is turn based, you can take your time planning where to attack next or who to try to start a war with (or make them fight each other by making your spies start a fake terrorist attack vs each other). The game makes you feel as though you are using your brain and even to this day, over 15 years of me playing it, I’m always finding out new little secret strategies to deploy. If you’re a war gamer, you will agree that this game has a Fun Factor of 9 out of 10. It’s a game for thinkers.

Difficulty Versatility:

The game has like 5 difficulty settings and it becomes really brutal the higher you go. You can scale the size of the galaxy so that you can play a long or REALLY long game. This sometimes has a harsher effect on how hard it is. Imagine having to fight a fleet of 20 war planets producing full time vs one of 4 planets. It requires you to have the logistical foresight to be able to take on such an onslaught. I give the Difficulty Versality a score of 10 out of 10.

Value:

Well, Microprose is dead and basically so this game is now free. You can get it from sites such as http://www.abandonia.com/ or http://www.homeoftheunderdogs.net/ and run it on DOSBox for free. You can also opt to buy Master of Orion 1 + 2 together for $5.99 from Good Old Games. Since this game is amazing and it’s free or very cheap, the score for Value is maxed out at 10 out of 10.

Replayability:

I’ve been playing it at least 2-3 times a year since the mid 90s. It’s one of those games that is on a permanent list to play each year. Like Civilization, once I start playing this game it’s hard for me to do anything but that for a good 2-4 weeks, each time. Replayability gets a 10 out of 10.

Sound:

I usually have the sound off, but the sounds are okay for an early 90s DOS strategy game. I give the Sound a score of 6 out of 10.

Music:

The music is alright but I usually shut it off and play some classical or epic music in the background. Keeps the game play strong and my concentration on maxing out planets and blowing up enemy fleets. The Music that comes with the game gets a 6 out of 10.

Graphics:

Of course, the graphics are now way dated, but for it’s time they were pretty great for a war game. The weapon beam effects look great for DOS and even the homing missiles look threatening although it’s just a grey arrow almost. Considering the style behind the Microprose games of this time and that it’s a war game, Graphics get a 9 out of 10.

Stability/Reliability:

The game never, ever crashes, itself. Sometimes DOSBox has some issues when you ALT-TAB but that’s a problem with DOSBox, not the game itself. I give Stability/Reliability a score of 10 out of 10.

Controls:

The controls are simply point and click with a few hotkeys integrated. The hotkeys however are not necessarily shown in game and you’d have to read the manual or look them up online. Some are essential like B for scrapping your missile bases in case they are too obsolete or your war front has moved up from that location and you’re wasting resources maintaining them. I give controls a 7 out of 10 because although some are hidden, they do what they’re meant to do properly and keep the game playable.

Performance:

This game will run godlike on any computer, maybe even a mobile phone. Performance instantly gets a 10 out of 10.

My history with this game:

This is actually one of the first PC games I’ve ever bought and it was well worth it as it has given me literally over 1000 hours of gameplay. I played it first on a 486 so you have an idea how much of a place in my gaming history this game has. Because of it’s turn based nature I’ve even played this game while working and that’s very doable so long as you have good multitasking skills and a good memory as to your strategems. I hope you will all start playing this classic even as a new gamer, you will learn new ways to think and that’s always, always rewarding in itself.

Master of Orion manual
Master of Orion manual