Remembering games fondly... Why some more than others?

X-COM is your perfect example. It hasn’t been matched yet. I think it’s a combination, not just one thing. In X-COM everything matched, at the time. You had that intro that pumped you up. You had the creept music and robotic whoosing beeping sounds of the interface. Brilliant music. You had different, random(!) terrains, so no mission ever played the same way twice (in fact, if you saved right before landing, even the same mission would seed differently). You had the perfect shady backstory, preying on all the X-Files like discoveries: cow mutilations, shady alien infiltration, mysterious craft, beings, and weapons. You also had what all other games that have come after have not gotten right: fear of the dark. This was primal in X-COM, seeing something moving just outside of the range of vision, and not being able to tell quite what it was. Did you see the hollow black eyes of a Sectoid? Little things like ammo types, which are maybe used to defeat weaknesses in today’s games, were useful in just seeing in X-COM. Not to mention the overall research/,manufacturing game, attaching yourself to soldiers, grace under fire situations, a morale model, psy-attacks, defending yourt own base against raids, setting up income streams (manufacturing, and also selling captured weapons).

Most games that came later took a few parts of X-COM but dropped others. Take Jagged Alliance, which was a terrific game in its own right. It was great tactically, strategically, and atmospherically (comic relief from the individual mercs). But it lacked the urgency of X-COM, the big threat. It also lacked that primal fear and the base management aspect (though it did have the conquering territory aspect, which wouldn’t work in the X-COM story).

The game I look on with nostalgia, hoping for a remake, is X-COM3, aka X-COM: Apocalypse. What turned me off about that game was the cheery look, the retro style (some people liked it but I thought it too cartoony), and the horrible look of the aliens. I think if you changed the look of the aliens and added a night cycle the game would have become a huge hit. You’d add back in that primal fear of the dark, of mysterious dangerous things. You can’t have it be dark all the time, but you need to build suspense somewhat.

Think about X-COM3 - you had a fully destructible cityscape. Buildings (or part of buildings) collapse. Freeways tumble over. Police chase criminals, irrespective of that you do. When an organization makes a delivery, an actual delivery truck races across the city. Starships take off and land in the port. Add to this the entire city is randomized, every new game. Now take the tactical: fully destructible interiors . . . way better than in X-COM. Take out the four support structures of a tower, and the whole thing collapses. Way, way, better modelled than almost any game today in 3D. Fire can spread on flammable surfaces. Smoke obscures vision and can make people unconcious. I mean, I can’t imagine how good that game would be today set in a dark, rainy (but not always, sometimes the sun shines) Blade Runner city. Where civilians run away as you fight it out in a shopping mall.

How many other games let you fight aliens in shopping malls, sports arenas, police stations, hospitals, warehouses, car factories, munitions factories, and the Senate?

Games today liek Silent Storm are great physics wise, but just can’t match in scope and mood.

Nostalgia is a really powerful thing.

My prob is I was already an adult when computers first came out. When the C64 was hitting it’s prime, I was in the Army as a 1LT and I got in trouble because of it more than once. But Bard’s Tale and Pirates will forever be part of my past. Then I moved on to the Amiga and PC compatibles when I changed stations to Ft. Polk. It’s been all PC all the time since then. Part of me is sad the Amiga didn’t make it, can you imagine what an Amiga be like today? Makes me shudder to think about it.

Don’t get me wrong. Some of my favorite games of all time are recent games:

Rome: Total War
GTA: San Andreas
Hulk: UD
Edit: Mercenaries - crikey, how could I forget this?

But I think that a lot of today’s newer gamers would enjoy games with the same themes as older games, remade with today’s graphics and physics. You can’t take something like Yar’s Revenge and simply remake it in 3D with fancy lens flares . . . it would suck. But a complex game like Panzer General or X-COM - today’s sophisticated gamers would eat it up, I think.

A nostalgic yearning which is in itself more pleasant than the thing being yearned for.

Eek! He quotes from the ancient book!

Sideways from that, did anyone ever see the Muppets episode with John Goodman? At one point he was speaking in pig latin and all the pigs backstage started freaking out, and going "He speaks the ancient tongue!! :D

The gameplay killed it for me. First time I tried playing the game, first mission, first turn. I’ve got some guys in a building, or maybe a landing ship, something. I tell one of the guys to step through the exit – the only move available to me, as far as I know. Shot from the dark, he’s dead!

Not my idea of fun.

Yeah, I found x-com too hard as well. Interesting game and well executed, but you had to be a masochist to play it.


We can have X-COM gameplay mechanics discussions all day, but suffice to day “I disagree!”.

Did you know you only get 3 lives in Super Mario brothers, and if you lose them game over? No restarts, no continues.

Weaksauce! Where’s the save game?

That’s what made it fun. The aliens don’t give the impression that they are there just to get thrashed by you.

You got a bit unlucky, but you probably could have thrown a smoke grenade out to start.

My memory is a bit foggy, but I seem to recall one case where I threw a smoke grenade and maybe deployed 4 guys the first turn. On their first turn, the aliens fired a blaster-bomb up the ramp…

Or just go “the zone is hot! the zone is hot! dust off!” and reland a bit later.

X-COM was the first and only game I ever read fan fic for.

If a mario brothers level went on for 45 minutes to an hour, people would’ve complained about the difficulty there, too.

I think it really comes down to a new experience as a gamer and maybe on a lesser level, the ‘best’ experience.

Why Civ 1 over Civ x? Simple, how many games did you play before Civ 1 that were similar to Civ 1? I never did, even though I had played the Avalon Hill Civilization game. It does not mean Civ 1 was better then Civ 4, it is just the first time in my life I have ever played that kind of game.

I have fond memories of Dune II. It was not a great RTS, but it was the first RTS I ever played. C&C, while the second RTS, was the first multi-player RTS. I remember many a lan party playing C&C.

Doom was the first FPS I played, even though I think Duke 3D was better, it still was not first to me.

Mostly the reason certain games were memorable to me are because they do something significantly new, something I have never seen/played before, and secondarily the friends I do this with.

Because newer games are built off old ideas with polish, it is very hard for them to be that memorable. I can’t think of any title I have played in the past few years that in 10 years Ill be reminiscing about. They will be fun for a while, but that is it.

Even games like WoW, which I played for a year, are not memorable. It is a great example of a super polished MMOG that brings little to nothing new to the table. I think my newbie experience as Dark Elf necro, getting a pet for the first time and watching it run around pwning monsters that were such trouble for me will be more memorable then all of WoW put together. My first experience with the Inner Circle (I think that is what they were called) in UO, a PK guild, will hold a higher position in my memory of MMOGs then anything else ever will.

It is sad to say, but I have little hope for ground breaking games, let alone of new genera’s be introduced (IE: RTS, FPS, Etc…). I think there will be a few more discoveries made, but they will be few and far between. Id be surprised if I see more then 2 more in my life time.

I think there is some limit. Its kind of like the kinds of characters that can be in books. There are only 45 character archetypes. All characters are one of these 45 or a combination of two or more archetypes. You can think of them as the elemental types that can not be broken down any further.

I think the type of games we can make, from a broad category such as FPS or Puzzle or Adventure, are like these archetypes. There is some maximum number of kinds of games, and we probably are very close, if not there, to all the types there ever will be.

I’ve seen this same post (speaking of the original topic post) time and time again all over the internet. Sometimes it’s a forum post, sometimes it’s an article on some gaming site, other times it’s a blog entry - but it’s always just a slight variation on the same theme.

I think the simple answer is: you’re growing up. Your perspective changes as your mature and experience things, and that coupled with nostalgia makes much of the past, games included, seem much more appealing than what’s in front of you now.

It’s something everyone goes through. We all lament that our hobby is losing the appeal that it once had. Things are bleak and all is lost…but eventually you get over it.

Oh, the angst! I think Christen Slater said it better in the angsty “classic” Pump Up The Volume: All the good themes have been used up and turned into theme parks.

The point is that they haven’t. We haven’t discovered everything there is to discover. We haven’t invented everything there is to invent. It’s just that you’re coming to realize that the world is not quite the same endless possibility space that it once was before you knew any better.

I don’t mean to sound harsh, and I realize I am probably coming across that way, but I just want to emphasize that this is something that everyone goes through, gamer or not. Most folks go through it and come out the other side happy as clams. Not that I understand why clams are so happy, though. That bit is a mystery.

Personally I think modern games kick the old games’ asses.

I mean, I used to daydream about real 3D RTS games where you had guys creeping through the trees and tanks firing zoomed in close and all that. Whamo, Company of Heroes hits this year. Sure, I really dug Wizardry and Bard’s Tale. Boom, Oblivion just landed and is (IMHO) the best RPG ever made. I enjoyed MoO II plenty. Zap! GalCiv II has all that and several bags of chips!

I’m sick of this nostalgia tripe. Computer gaming is a technologically enabled hobby and gets better as technology gets better. Sequel-itis doesn’t bother me… the same thing can be done better given time, more hardware, and more developer experience. (Lots of today’s game devs have been doing this for decades, and the games benefit from it!)

Also agree that there’s a limited set of “game archetypes” and that many of the genres we currently have are likely to be with us more or less forever (or until unified VR environments start breaking down genre boundaries yet again…).

That reminds me of the old myth about the 19th century Patent Office commissioner who supposedly resigned because “everything which could be invented had been invented.” :-)

Predictions about the lack of imagination and creativity in the industry are premature. Just because you and I aren’t clever enough to invent new genres doesn’t mean several others won’t…

No, you just have to have patience and not bond too tightly to your guys in the beginning.

My “never topped” games:
Civ 1: Civ 2 was close, but suffered from too many units, and subsequent versions have proved that for me, more is less. I prefer the simplicity of the original.

Master of Magic: Flawed, but one of the most fun 4X games ever. AoW is but a pale shadow of MoM.

X-COM: Turn-based tactical goodness, destructible terrain, base management, research… I’m amazed that no one has really built on this successfully.

Master of Orion: Probably the best turn-based tactical game I’ve ever played.

Looking at those games… whatever became of Steve Barcia? He developed some great games.

Part of it is simple nostalgia. Part of it is a reactionary, tribal identification with games from “our days” as opposed to the new games and gamers which arrived afterwards.

There is also a known psychological mechanism wherein, at a certain point, we become so familiar in our appreciation of something that we start looking backwards, seeking a return of the impact level we once felt upon discovery. It’s not quite the same thing as nostalgia, but very close to junkies chasing their “first high.”

You really see this in music. As of 2006, it is exactly one generation since the end of New Wave music (generation = 20 years, roughly) and right on schedule, my fellows in the late-1960s-born cohort are rediscovering their old faves. I’ve had half a dozen requests to digitize my vinyl single of The Puppet’s WAY OF LIFE in the past few months.