Long Live the PC

By Shamus
on May 13, 2008
Filed under:
Video Games

This is a long-n-rambly post. This isn’t so much an article as a disjointed collection of observations, stream-of-consciousness style. Please lower your standards accordingly.

A couple of weeks ago I got a new graphics card, more or less to play Mass Effect. Now I’m not getting the game, and it sort of feels like my pixels are all dressed up with no place to go. Sulking, this weekend I headed to the game store to see if anyone else had their act together enough to get my money. Once again I was shocked at just how few PC titles there are.

It used to be that the bargain bin was a great place to pick up two and three year old games. Now titles linger on the main shelf, and only the most dreadful failures and low-budget movie spinoff games fall into The Bin. I had money to burn, but there just wasn’t that much to choose from. Most of the remaining titles were strategy games. Nothing wrong with that, but my strategy needs are well sated at this point. I wanted… something with characters? A story? Maybe a little leveling up?

There wasn’t much to choose from. In the end I picked up Knights of the Nine, an expansion for Oblivion. I also picked up another game that I’ll write more about later. Both were cheap – the two together were less than what I was willing to spend on Mass Effect.

It’s sort of strange to see this happening. PC Gaming isn’t dead. There are just too many PCs out there for the platform to be abandoned completely. But I think the days of getting a dozen spectacular big-budget games a year are gone for good. Who do we blame? Developers and their idiotic pursuit of graphics for its own sake? Pirates? Reviewers who overhype the crap? Publishers forcing bug-ridden releases and DRM? I’d say there’s plenty of blame to go around.

But now for the strange part: I’m thinking seriously about getting a real current-gen console – either an XBox 360 or a PS3. I’m not sure how likely that is. Those things are pricey. Still, I’m not even sure I can call myself a PC gamer at this point. The only thing that makes me a PC gamer is the fact that the games I’m boycotting are games for the PC. Maybe it’s time to jump ship and become a console gamer. Maybe.

At any rate, buying, playing, and griping about videogames is one of life’s great pleasures for me, and there aren’t enough viable titles on the PC to keep that going. We still have Stardock, id, and Valve putting out quality titles, but I don’t think their output alone can support the hobby.

There are also indie games, which I neglect too often. Indie developers are the best hope in the near future if I want to play more than three PC titles a year. I notice I usually avoid writing about indie games unless explicitly asked to do so by the author because indies are often a labor of love from a small group. Sometimes they are even the product of a single person. It’s one thing to heap scorn and shame on the output of a multi-million dollar company, it’s another to dump on the project some guy has devoted himself to for the last couple of years. It’s tough to review such a personal product without the critique sounding personal.

Having said that, Eschalon was fun. There are probably other worthy efforts out there. Jay has pointed out Depths of Peril, and it looks promising in a Diablo-esque sort of way. I’ll also be checking out his Frayed Knights once it ripens a little.

Something will probably change soon, one way or another. I can’t keep playing and reviewing old games forever.

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  1. Drew says:

    PC Gaming nowadays is the realm of the MMORPG. I guess publishers like that model for the PC, because piracy is really a non-issue when you need a subscription to play a game, and since consoles don’t have keyboards (I know you can plug them in in some cases, but it doesn’t feel right) you can’t really chat, which is pretty key to the whole genre. But all the great single player titles and small-number multiplayer titles have gone to the consoles, seemingly for good. Good thing I enjoy the WoW, or PC gaming might be dead for me, too. Well, WoW and Nethack…

  2. Maybe, just maybe it’s time you gave MMORPGS a shot?

    You could literaly have your own Penny Arcade-like guild with readers and fans…

    I know you’ll answer that you don’t want to scarp your life and all on this… but I’ve managed it for a few years by accepting that I was always several levels behind my friends.

  3. Deoxy says:

    I can’t keep playing and reviewing old games forever.

    You’re right – you’ll die of old age eventually.

    Seriously, there are a LOT of old games out there, and some of them are still worth playing – and many of them are worth ridiculing! :-)

    One thing I would point out is that “gaming” stores (GameStop, etc) have becoming “CONSOLE gaming” stores – there’s a significantly better selection of PC games at Wal-mart (seriously).

    Still not what it used to be, or even close, but not as bad as your experience, I think.

  4. Shamus says:

    MMO’s are just not a viable option for me. My real-life demands are such that I need a game I can pause. I played Dark Age of Camelot and Earth and Beyond back in the day. It was fun, but incompatible with my various dad duties.

    Yeah, I’d love to jump in WoW and crack heads with you guys, but it’s just not an option right now. Maybe when the kids are older.

  5. hysterio says:

    Console gamer? PC gamer? Forget it. Just be a gamer. The sooner people realize the two don’t have to be at odds with one another the more great games they can play.

    I have an Xbox 360 and use that for the latest and greatest games. My PC is pretty good, but not great nor high end, and I use it for older games and PC exclusives.

    It is a bit more expensive to have both, but it you are wise and buy used or wait until prices drop it balances out. But, I have to ask, do you have an HDTV? Because if you don’t and you buy a 360 or PS3, you’re going to want one and that can be a big chunk of change.

  6. Alexis says:

    shamus = Shamus.getInstance()
    if (shamus.wants(:bluray))
    then shamus.buy(PS3.new)
    else shamus.buy(XBox360.new)
    end

    XBox has a better library right now, by far, but I expect the PS3 will take off.
    BTW GTA 4 is *much* better than GTA 3 imho, I gave up on 3 in disgust very early on but I’m quite enjoying 4. It’s on both platforms.
    I’ve already played mass effect, I’m halfway through my second playthrough in fact. I bought BioShock too I’m afraid. Both available on 360, without DRM.

    You might be surprised how pause-able WoW is. If you solo, which is what you’ll mainly do up to L70, you have around 480 hours of playtime when you can literally stand up and walk away. Worst case, you die – this isn’t a big deal in WoW. Just run back and keep going.
    There’s a lot of solo content at max level in WoW too now, much more than there used to be.
    Even when you group, most (mature) people are pretty tolerant of occasional AFKs. If your child is in danger, or the food is burning, they will understand.

    All you need to do is have a firm grip on how much time you want to spend in game per week, and how large the chunks are.
    To be honest I’m guessing you wouldn’t hit max level until the new expansion comes out in six months. The new dungeons will all be designed to be cleared in one hour, that’s a pretty digestible hunk of time.
    As a hobby, it’s a hell of a lot easier to manage than a sport or something.

  7. Phlux says:

    I fear that this thread will quickly dissolve into “You should get a 360!” “No WAI!! PS3 4Evar!”

    That said I will say there are distinct benefits to console ownership regardless of platform.

    1) It’s a fantastic place for budget gamers…because even though the bargain bin for PC titles has whittled away to nothing…the one for consoles is still going strong. Console games get regular and routine price reductions after X amount of time on the market.

    2) The used game market is also nice, even though I don’t make use of it often. Don’t sell your games back to an EB though…find a mom&pop used game/music store…you’ll always do better and they appreciate your business more.

    3) Your single player games (at least through this generation) will always work in offline mode, require no online registration and continue to work for decades as long as you have a working console to play them on.

    4) Game developers have gotten consistently better at treating console owners like “real gamers”. The interfaces are often simple, but nuanced more than you realize.

    5) Gamepads really are usable devices for FPS games. Most PC gamers (myself included) hate gamepads with a passion and prefer “Keyboard Mouse 4Evar!!”…but honestly if you give it a while you’ll grow comfortable with the gamepad and eventually find that you forget all about it. It takes a while, but eventually that issue just sort of recedes.

    Full disclosure: I own pretty much every major console made all the way back to Atari 2600 except for the Genesis. I have also been a PC gamer since the DOS 6.0 and Windows 3.1 era. I have a 360 and a Wii but not a PS3. I’m not a hater, I just got my 360 first, and none of the PS3 exclusive games have really done much for me. Haze might change that, though.

  8. Nicholas says:

    hysterio said:”
    Console gamer? PC gamer? Forget it. Just be a gamer. The sooner people realize the two don’t have to be at odds with one another the more great games they can play.”

    Actually, given the usually vast difference in possible control systems between PC games and console games, if a major stumbling block for you is the controls then PC games just seem far superior.

    Also, games made for both often seem crippled on one platform (unable to perform as well using the console interface, or seem ridiculously shackled on the PC)

    So, no console games for me

  9. Ian says:

    I take it you’ve not seen this then?

  10. hysterio says:

    @Nicholas

    That may be true, but by sticking with one platform you are missing out on some great games. I guess that was my point even if it didn’t come across as such.

    Also the trade off isn’t just controls, for me it is also large screen and comfy couch. ;)

  11. Froody says:

    I know what you mean, Shamus, and I have often thought about getting a console as well in recent months, even though I consider myself a hardcore PC gamer. The problem is, I am a strategy gamer at heart and that genre is the main weakness of all consoles.

    I am currently playing one of my favorites again, the fantastic Medieval II , and this is a kind of gameplay I just don’t see possible on consoles. I also play it with several user made mods installed, another thing console games are lacking.

    Still, gaming companies are doing their very best to drive me away from the PC, so maybe I’ll get an Xbix sooner or later anyway.

  12. lplimac says:

    One other thing to remember is that most PC games are now bought online so stores don’t keep a large stock of them. The Gamestop near me has few PC games (and most of them are MMO’s), but is awash with console titles, while their website has plenty of PC games on it. What’s interesting is the big box stores- Best Buy and Fry’s- have a lot of PC games, way more than the dedicated gaming stores.
    If you want to check out an MMO that isn’t as time critical (and you like shoot ’em up games) check Hellgate: London. You can play without subscribing (heck the off line single player mode is available if you don’t want to go online) and you can port back to the station if real life intervenes. It’s based off of Diablo II (same design team, different company) so if you didn’t like that you may not like HG:L. It’s also a EA game so that could also hurt, but they came in late in the production cycle (bought the studio and forced a early ship date) and most of what they broke due to that has been fixed.
    Oh and if you are going to get a console I’d recommend, if the choice is a Xbox and PS3, to go with the PS3. It’s the most cost efficient way to get a Blu-Ray player. (Me, I bought a Wii… I also have kids :D )

  13. SomeDude says:

    I actually agree with your sentiment. There isn’t many PC games that either “wow” me or doesn’t come across as more of the same.

    That said, consoles really aren’t that much different. But atleast there is some variety.

  14. Maddy says:

    The reduced concern about piracy has to be a huge plus for console game developers right out of the gate. You’ve already seen what the piracy issue is doing to the PC gaming community and to developers. It’s putting everyone at odds, and generating a lot of ill will.

    This can’t be cheap for the developers.

    However, keep in mind that whichever platform you pick is going to get replaced every few years, and it won’t be cheap to get a new one, which may or may not be backwards-compatible with the games you already have (that’s been a tricky issue with the PS3, not sure about the other platforms).

    Meanwhile, you’ll be upgrading your PC regularly, regardless.

    I know you’ve probably already considered that, but it’s the expensive downside to console gaming.

    And a major non-financial annoyance is that no matter which platform you pick, there will be games that will be available on other platforms but not yours, and it will drive you crazy. But you’ll still have a lot more games to choose from.

  15. Fergle F Fergleson says:

    (long time reader, first time poster; love the blog)

    This post of yours comes at a curious time for me, as I’m going through roughly the same “crisis of faith”. I am (and do) play MMOGs on the PC, but the lack of good games and games that only come with insane amounts of “baggage” (DRM, etc) have really made it hard. If I could realistically use a mouse/keyboard on a console, I think I’d be giving the switch serious consideration. I can’t stand console controllers.

  16. Hal says:

    Aw, no love for the Wii, Shamus? I’ve loved mine dearly. I’m willing to bet the Paper Mario series would be right up your alley.

    As for your recent purchase, I’m curious how you felt about the Oblivion expansion.

  17. Telas says:

    Lots of cheap games on Steam as well. Vampire the Masquerade:Bloodlines was on there for $10 at one point, but I think it’s $20 now.

  18. Jadawin says:

    I’ve also found goozex.com recently, which is a pretty good source for old PC games as long as you are willing to be patient (and also a good way to unload old PC games you don’t want any more).

  19. Smileyfax says:

    You could always pick up Gothic 3 — when it was released, it was pretty buggy and had some slowdown issues, but I think a fanpatch has been released to iron most of those out.

    I definitely have to start playing it again someday, but I’m afraid I’ll get burned out on how freaking huge the game is — I got 50 hours in before completely becoming exhausted.

    I still remember the hilariousness of running into a cave full of bandits for the first time only to find them literally lining up one at a time to take me on. God, I love AI stupidity.

  20. GAZZA says:

    Yeah, I was wondering about the lack of Wii love myself.

    Mind you, I only own 2 “real” games (I’m not counting Wii Play or Wii Fit) [Zelda and Guitar Hero], though Spore is coming…

    I guess a lot of Wii games – and Nintendo games in general – are pitched at party games rather than solo games, though.

  21. JFargo says:

    You know, the Wii may not be one of the power-houses as far as graphics and what-not go, but it IS a ton of fun.

    That being said, I made the transition over to console a while ago, and haven’t really looked back. I use the PC when I want to play one of my older games (and have a good time doing it), but I haven’t bought a new game for the PC for quite some time.

  22. Hal says:

    Hm . . . actually, if I remember correctly, Shamus mentioned something about his kids not being able to play Wii due to the refresh rate of the console or something to that effect. I’d look for the thread where Wii ownership came up, but I can’t recall for the life of me what it was.

  23. Chris Arndt says:

    My brother and I purchased PS2s so when we buy games we don’t have to worry about the whole “this game will ostensibly run on my system, arguably and purportedly, but will it really” deal.

    Also, it makes Christmases and Birthdays better. It’s EXTREMELY farking disappointing to give or get a kickass game…. and then find that due to a bug or incongruity or incompatibility it cannot be played. That never happens to a Playstation game.

    ever.

    Of course, because Sony = douchebags they kept making new models of Playstation 2 so that the new peripherals for the new PS2s are not “backwards compatible” and I can’t buy a NEW peripheral for my Playstation 2. I had to go back in time…. morons.

  24. Solka says:

    I support Gothic3’s nomination, Shamus. It’s a great, huge game, with a lot of role-play-linked contents! You actually get to try to guess which side you should be on!

    But the game is nethackly hard! The combat system is unforgiving!

  25. Ferrous Buller says:

    Couple of suggestions before you leap off the pier into the stormy seas of console gaming: If you’re interested in indie games, I think GameTunnel is a good site to start scoping what’s out there. I also recommend you subscribe to GameTap: huge catalog of games (mostly older titles, but they get a few newer ones), nice flat annual fee that’s less than the price of two brand-new games, and perhaps best of all, if a game doesn’t run well on your PC or flat-out sucks, just delete it and download something else – all you waste is bandwidth.

  26. Lukasa says:

    An earlier poster correctly pointed out that, at this point, you need to turn to online distribution. It needn’t be Steam/Stardock Central, but certainly Amazon and eBay need to be considered as potential avenues of game purchase.

    Also, I suggest you consider Armageddon Empires. Not very expensive, and proof of why much of our PC gaming hope lies with indie developers.

  27. JT says:

    Another first-time poster here.

    Hysterio & Phlux have said the good stuff I would have said had I gotten here first. Don’t think of yourself as a PC gamer or Console gamer, but as a gamer who can critically evaluate when & where it makes sense to indulge each side. I owned an Atari 2600 when I was a kid, then was dedicated PC-only from DOS through the present. There were a couple of times I was tempted to foray into consoles (the most prevalent being when the first KotOR came out) but I never experienced the “HAVE to have it NOW” thing that made me buy a console.

    Until I started doing the Dad thing with a stay-at-home Mom (I steadfastly refuse to say she “doesn’t work” ’cause I know better) and had both 1) less $$$ to spend on PC upgrades and 2) less time to spend futzing with installations, driver issues, DRM, etc. Mass Effect being the 360 exclusive that it was for a while was the tipping point that made me buy a 360 for myself this past Christmas (yep, went from that 2600 in circa 1985 to a 360 in December 2007). Another factor was Assassin’s Creed being a console exclusive for a while (though I still haven’t played it – I’m that far behind). Yet another was Bioshock’s DRM, so I bought it (used, P2P) for 360 instead. Yet another was Shadowrun’s Vista-only status. Yet another was the (relative) simplicity of the controller and the vast array of XBoxLiveArcade titles to try for free or download that my three-year-old is starting to have mucho fun with (he can use a mouse for clicking around a webpage, but the thumbsticks are easier for him for game-playing).

    I really had a blast with Mass Effect being my “introductory” title – I still don’t expect to ever be much good at FPS w/thumbsticks, but the “pause & look around anytime” during combat really helped the learning curve for the n00bs like me. I haven’t yet played multiplayer anything on XBox Live (and don’t really expect to in any serious fashion, unless it’s Chessmaster/Puzzle Quest/Lost Cities/etc. with buddies I already know), so don’t concern yourself with thinking that it’s an absolute MUST in order to enjoy the console.

    The last new game I bought for PC was the latest Splinter Cell almost two years ago, having only grudgingly joined my buddies with a cheaper-than-cheap used copy of CoD4 multiplayer (which I’m nowhere near as enthralled with as I was with Battlefield 2142). That said, I fully expect to go with the PC version of Fallout 3, providing Bethesda (as self-publisher) makes a good decision on DRM.

    So yes, one can certainly be a “gamer” and make informed decisions on which platform to patronize (in the good sense of the word) in which circumstances.

  28. Darin says:

    I’d love to PC game some more, but my recently bought PS3 has the same amount of hard drive space as the computer I’d be gaming. And I won’t be getting a new computer until the old one truly dies such a horrible death that it cannot be resurrected.

    The last PC game I bought was Sims 2, and that was just because I found out you could starve everybody to death with a simple fence.

    Got the Wii for the wife and kids, and the PS3 for myself. So far, the Wii has seen a lot more use. Course, the 52″ flat screen shows up on Friday, so I may have to pull an all nighter.

  29. Kelsey says:

    You won’t find many PC games at a GameStop or EB because they don’t make much money off of those. They make their money from reselling used games, which you can’t really do with the PC. And, purchasing used games does not support the developer. They don’t see a dime from that sale.

    How about The Witcher? PC only, and one of the better RPGs out there.

  30. Daktylo says:

    Shamus,

    These things happen in cycles. I remember buying a computer gaming magazine in the mid 90’s during the absolute drought of games and being unimpressed by the offering. In fact, I would say that the writers for the mag were equally unimpressed.
    But then came the advent of the 3D cards, and gaming changed. It became more mainstream and popular.
    I think the same thing will happen soon. Computers have the ability to utilize technology that the current gen consoles can’t. What exactly will be the next big thing with technology, who knows? But I bet it will reinvigorate the industry. And no, I don’t think this technology will be state of the art DRM…

  31. RobertB says:

    If you’re buying an XBox 360 or PS3 and have any interest at all in it, spring for Rock Band. I know it’s $169, but it’s a blast, even sober.

  32. Nilus says:

    I agree with hysterio. Just be a gamer.

    I understand the PC vs Console control fight but honestly that gap is narrowing a lot. Playing a FPS on a console is not better or worse, its just different. I remember when we all stopped using the keyboard to control FPS and started using the mouse. It was a crazy time and many people disliked it at first but now its the only way to play on PC.

    Like hysterio said, its a trade off. I still like my PC and look forward to games on it(starcraft 2 and dawn of war 2 I am excited about), but I also like playing my 360 on a big screen TV sitting in a recliner using a wireless controller.

  33. MintSkittle says:

    I’d recommend getting a 360. You could get Mass Effect for about $30 used, and there’s Lost Odyssey for your RPG needs. I’m also told Blue Dragon is good for that old school RPG feel, but I don’t have it, so I don’t know for sure.

  34. Nickless says:

    Check out the indie game Mount and Blade if you haven’t already Shamus, it’s still in beta, but it’s well worth the twenty or so dollars it costs. That game has me addicted. As for PC vs. Console, while I prefer PC, I simply cannot afford a good quality system for most of the games that have been released in the last six years. I usually just play indie and Neverwinter Nights persistent worlds. I dislike FPS in console games, the mouse is far superior. If a console is ever released with the ability to use a mouse, and download custom mods/content, I will be fast to buy it.

  35. John Lopez says:

    “My real-life demands are such that I need a game I can pause.”

    Pick up a DS and/or a PSP and wait on the next gen systems: they will soon be cheaper and have yet better libraries.

    I love my hand-held game systems because I can just close the case (DS) or slide a slider up (PSP) and the game is “on hold”. Combine that with the fact that most of the games are designed with mobility in mind means that they are also designed with bite size sessions in mind, and I’m finding most of my gaming is spent with the hand-held systems.

  36. Shamus says:

    Hal: If we got a Wii (which we plan to do) it will go in the family room. I’m looking for something for here in my office where I play games that are unsuitable for the kids.

    Part of my setup involves plugging the console into my PC so I can play in a window, vid cap, screencap, etc. I’ve got that all worked out now. I had my friend’s PS3 plugged into my setup and it worked fine. (Although, my TV tuner card is “regular tv” and not HDTV, so the resolution was lower than it could be.

  37. Stu says:

    At the minute I’m playing Freeciv and Nethack pretty much exclusively on the computer. It turns out I can live without a lot of PC games. I occasionally yearn for Civ IV or GTA:San Andreas which stare back at me from the shelf (but I can deal)

    I don’t honestly play a lot of games anymore – Guitar Hero III and Mario Kart (both on Wii) are probably the games I’m playing most consolewise.

    Im considering getting a 360 simply for GTA 4 though.

  38. Arkmagius says:

    Well, I’m looking from the outside in at both mentioned next-gen consoles (since I own neither), so I feel I’m qualified to act as an impartial observer (and even if I’m not qualified, it’s never stopped me before).

    Xbox 360 had devastating initial word-of-mouth from so many being broken right out of the box. Most of that should have been worked out by now, though, since Microsoft seems to actually want to make a decent product.

    The Playstation 3 looks and runs great, but my main problem is that it seems some games require installation to run. That’s the main draw consoles had for me in the first place, no cluttered harddrives!

    Both consoles have had significant upgrades and several versions offered, if you’re going for the 360 go for the second best model (actually, since you said you don’t have an HDTV tuner, you probably don’t even need to go that far). PS3, any model, they seem very similar.

    The 360 had a significant head-start on the other consoles, so if you’re wanting quality gaming right now, I’d go with it. But some PS3 exclusives are coming up, many of which look very promising. I’m not sure if they’d be enough to unseat the massive library X360 has, though.

    Backwards compatibility, both have it. Xbox games must be supported with an emulation patch, if I recall correctly. For the Playstation 3, they had perfect emulation at the beginning, but I’ve heard that they broke it somehow in the new models.

  39. =Dan says:

    Way back when the original xbox came out I looked at the games announced for it and realized a lot of them were going to be PC games. I then bought an xbox, for the simple fact that I never had to upgrade the xbox to play a game. In the long run I feel like it was a better investment. I still play games on the PC (Civ4 most recently) but when I read about the crazy DRM, the limited activations, the fact that my current computer won’t even come close to playing a game I can buy for my 360….I buy it for the console. And yes I take a hit in controls, graphics, and depth. But then my wallet can afford 60 bucks alot easier than $50 plus a new graphics card. At this point the PC is a niche gaming market where MMORPG’s and RTS reign. As for the PS3 versus the 360 argument I am not a big fan of japanese games (JRPGs, fighting, racing, TPS are their strong sellers) so I went with the M$ console. I will be buying a PS3 eventually as a blu-ray player w/hard drive and free online service will be great once it gets going.

  40. Snook says:

    Shamus, have you tried Mount & Blade yet? It may be a bit too action-y for you, and it’s an indie title, but it’s proven to be enormous fun for me and many others. It even has levelling!

    The feeling that the PC gaming industry is dying hits me hard too, mostly in the wallet. I’d have a much harder time updating to a new console every 3 years than getting a new pc/buying new parts every 5 years.

  41. Mark says:

    Shamus, I say go for it. But, the way you like to revisit old games, be sure to get something with whose backwards compatibility you are pleased.

    The 360 makes sure that most or all of the Xbox titles you’ll want to play work, but that’s only seven years’ worth of stuff. It’s possible to pick up a used PS3 that also supports PS2 games, but I don’t think they make them any more (though I’m pretty sure they all support PS1 games?). The Wii will run anything, but if what you want doesn’t trickle out through their online store, you’re confined to the Gamecube library.

    Point is, think of your poor, beleaguered readers!

    But if you’re saving the Wii for family-friendly games, I guess I’ll have to defer my hope that you’ll eventually go through a Fire Emblem game sometime.

  42. DosFreak says:

    List of PC games that people have beaten:
    (List of PC Games by PC Gamers)
    http://vogons.zetafleet.com/viewtopic.php?t=11328

    PC Game Compatibility List
    (3,000 games tested)
    http://vogons.zetafleet.com/viewtopic.php?t=8784

    If you go through both lists and still can’t find any games to play then you are not a PC gamer…..either that or you have way too much time on your hands (because you played them all).

  43. Lorgath says:

    Shamus,

    Okay, so new games that are any good appear to be hard to come by. Publishers are doing idiotic things to stop piracy, and games are constantly pushing for graphics over gameplay. The latter is down to consoles changing the face of gaming, whilst the former more to do with exaggerated perceptions created in no small part by the media looking for stories.

    Publishers “cracking down” on piracy is certainly nothing new. At least we don’t have to go through a booklet of numbers and codes to match up to pictures or whatever, back from the day when gameboxes were huge and full of tasty manuals.

    I’d certainly agree that there’s a dearth of rubbish games around, but that’s always been the case. Similarly, there have always been plenty of games that are far more style over substance. I can say this with some confidence, as despite my relative lack of age (I’m 19), I’ve been gaming since the days of dos. I still regularly go back and boot up dosbox and play the old favourites of doom, x-com and crusader. I even played some of the games I had ages ago, platformers like bio-meanace and halloween harry. They were fairly crap to be honest, but I still look back on them with the rose-tinted glasses. Deux Ex – there’s one that’s a little bit awful in places. Most annoying AI and combat ever – looking back at combat now after playing many of the newer FPS games is almost embarrasing. Shooting people who only go Uh agh eeh uh uh uh uh agh eeh agh uh ad infinitum is really annoying nowdays, despite the stunningly good plot and opportunities the game presents.

    “They just don’t make ’em like they usedta.” Well, yeah, most of my favourite games are relatively old. I imagine though that’s because I expected less of a game, and so did most of us.

    One of the main problems with games these days is that they promise so much yet deliver something we’ve seen before or just generally doesn’t cut it. Remember though, a lot of games that weren’t particularly yelled about have turned out to be actually quite good. They’ve matured over time, as they’ve had time to grow raving fanbases and so on. Baldur’s Gate, for example, was reviewed poorly by a mainstream British computer-game magazine until they recieved enough letters/emails from readers extolling the virtues of the game to make them go back and re-review it.

    There’s also the problem with all those games from the late 90’s and early naughties that have damaged modern day gaming – they set the bar much too high. It’s hard to improve on classics that were so good, and a good game means a quick buck in shoddy sequels.

    Next time you’re in the gaming shop, Shamus, think about the fact that you are part of a hard core of videogamers that have been going for a while. Things just ‘aint gonna seem quite so cool now you’ve seen every type of locomotive-pixel-graphicizer shading filters come and go.

    Also, it might be an idea to just give some things you wouldn’t otherwise buy a try – Don’t just buy anything, but maybe ask your readership if anyone can suggest something new and somewhat left-field. Recently, I had a lot of fun scooping up the command and conquer series, which I’d never played any of before ’cause it looked a bit naff. I rarely play RTS games because the army and base building element is so unrealistic it just makes me stop suspending my disbelief.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that we’re currently in the middle of a year. This is the period where all the rubbish games tend to be made, especially now. Publishers want to sell at Christmas for obvious reasons, thus the better/bigger games get pushed out then (ready or not, which turns some potentially good games sour as we’ve seen).

    Sorry if this comment is a bit of a mess, but I’ve just been adding things as I think of them. Also, I don’t mean to cause offense or tell you what to do. Still, chin-up and wait a bit. Things might get a bit better, there’s some interesting games on the horizon.

    Even so, if I don’t get some sort of gaming upper soon, I may well join you with the 360. Sigh.

    Cheers,

    Lorgath

  44. happyturtle says:

    Used PS2’s are cheap on Ebay, and there are still lots of games to enjoy. Since you’ve been playing older PC games, you’ll probably be set up for a long time. By the time you get bored with that, the next gen consoles will be out and you can get PS3s cheap on ebay.

  45. ShadowDragon8685 says:

    Shamus, if you’re looking for some oldies to try, I’ve got a few to reccomend before I boot out the door:

    1: Star Wars, Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords. I know it’s old and probably been done, but it’s worth another play through with all the mods available on the internet; lots of lightsabers, play as a female twi’lek and get the Handmaiden with a female PC character, and such. Surprisingly fun to play, even if you cheat your ass off.

    2: Star Trek: Bridge Commander. Sure, it looks naff, and you can forget about the voice commands, but it’s got a storyline good enough for at least one play-through, and both Patrick Stewart and Brent Spinnar reprise their roles.

    3: Tachyon: The Fringe, if you’re looking for something that’s a true throwback to the Wing Commander series. Do not attempt it without a flight joystick, though.

    4&5: Homeworld and Homeworld: Cataclysm are really good, if ancient. Less about base building and more about combat, but I think you’d find the storyline compelling.

    6: Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura, if you haven’t played it, is right up your ally.

    7: Dungeon Keeper II, if you can find a copy, is exactly what your doctor ordered, Mr. “I love building mah base and think of combat as an unwanted distraction”.

    8: Outpost 2, a vertibly antique game by now, might also offer the “base building extraordinare” you’re looking for. It’s an RTS, but building your stuff is more emphasized than the killing.

  46. Tichfield says:

    For PC games, try gamersgate.com – I get the feeling they mostly sell to Europeans, and perhaps because fo that, their selection of games for digital distribution is astounding. Chances are good they’ll have great games you’ve never heard of. Their prices are also very reasonable.

    I also second the suggestion that you look into GameTap’s subscription service. You can download everything from Pong to many of the latest blockbusters, all for one fee.

    Finally… give the DS a try. Stylus control gives it a ‘mouse’-ey feel, any game can be paused instantly by closing the case, and there’s a huge number of excellent games for it. It’s probably the current ‘console’ with the greatest quality/crud ratio… Publisher’s *can’t* compete in graphics on the DS – it just doesn’t have the horsepower – so instead they compete on gameplay.

  47. Zukhramm says:

    Get a DS, for the best game series ever. Phoenix Wright!

    ” if a major stumbling block for you is the controls then PC games just seem far superior.”

    I have allways been of the opinion that a mouse and keyboard never can be as good for games as a console game pad.

  48. Coke says:

    Heck, I’d donate five bucks towards the console purchase in return for postings about the console games. ^_^

  49. The Railway Man says:

    Get a 360, most definetly. Mass Effect is already out for it, so…

    And I know I wil probably lose any respect I could ever get from you by the following, but what the hell: Try Halo 3. Just try it. Just a teeney weeney sample. Go on… I also might as well say this: I’m a firm supporter of the series, and having read (several times, I might add) your post, I can safely say that many of your concerns are addressed with it. Although, even a firm supporter as I of the series must say, don’t bother getting it if you intend to play it offline exclusively (aside from splitscreen, of course) as you will come away disapointed. The online, however (which you can play in splitscreen, as in up to four players per console can play online at the same time in the same match) is, well, too bloody briliant to put into words.

    Just try it. Give in to the Dark Side, good sir.

  50. Anonymous says:

    I sometimes wonder if “boycotting” PC games is sending any message at all, let alone the right one. What if big publishers like EA see that their DRM-ridden PC titles are not being bought, and the conclusion they reach is that they should stop publishing for the PC altogether? How does that help us? I’m not saying obtrusive DRM is a good thing, far from it. It’s just that if I don’t buy PC games with DRM issues then I’m not buying any PC games at all. In all honesty, I don’t really mind DRM crap that much, but then again that’s because I go out of my way to circumvent it for the games that I’ve bought, so I can just double-click the icon on my desktop and not worry about the damn DVD anymore.

    Really, I don’t think the problem is with PC gaming, it’s with gaming in general right now. I’m a real graphics whore, so I would argue against the GRAFIX = >:C standpoint you have, but I do feel that developers are focusing way too much on style and presentation and not nearly enough on core gameplay design these days. And the reason for that is that it sells. I bought Bioshock for the atmosphere but was sorely disappointed with its utter lack of replay value and depth. Same with GTA4, Assassin’s Creed, and Mass Effect. I steered clear of Halo 3 because it was the same thing as Halo 2 in my eyes, and I’m glad I did. I don’t know what the solution is or even if there is one. As someone else said, there’s just a drought right now that needs to be ridden out.

    As far as the console, I would definitely recommend an Xbox 360. Not just for the mainstream games available for it, but also for the Xbox Live Arcade games. There’s quite a slew of unique, addictive indie games available on there, not to mention a few old classics that benefit a great deal from HD resolutions and online play.

  51. Annon says:

    Heh. As I’m reading this, I’m playing a copy of Blood Omen 2 that I just picked up from the bargain bin at Gamestop for four bucks. Games never get too old for me.

  52. Jeysie says:

    I’m an adventure gamer who likes RPGs as a close second, so I feel your pain. Adventure games just really aren’t done on consoles except for the random handheld title, and I prefer D&D-style RPGs to the JRPGs the consoles generally have. So the current state of PC gaming has left me mostly dry as well. (I lack the hand-eye coordination to play even the “easiest” action-based or real-time games, and I’m only so-so at turn-based strategy games.)

    For what it’s worth, if you want a pausable MMORPG to try, I suggest Kingdom of Loathing. It’s free, funny, completely single-player except for trading, and makes a cute coffee-break sort of game.

  53. Brennan says:

    Have you tried The Witcher for PC? Quite enjoyable and realistic about they grey areas between good and evil.

  54. Evilllama says:

    Amen, brother.

    PC Gaming is the best gaming.

    I actually looked at the Witcher.
    I’m a NWN addict, and it’s Bioware.
    It actually looks really good, but
    I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

  55. RPharazon says:

    I have an Xbox 360 for all the shiny and new games. The PC is for internet, work, and oldish games. The newest game I have installed on the computer is Team Fortress 2, followed by Audiosurf, followed by Trackmania Nations Forever followed by Dwarf Fortress.

    By the way, you do really need to try Dwarf Fortress, Shamus. It’s a steep learning curve but I am sure you will love the total depth of the game.

  56. Den Store Frelser says:

    Gothic 3 is definitely worth a try, as are the earlier games in the series. The games are not actually nethackly hard (Apart from the second one with Night of the Raven.), more like nethack-with-spoilers hard. Take your time and don’t try to rid the entire world of hostiles at once unless you like saving and loading constantly. Unless you’re a gamer savant and love to discover weaknesses in AI attack patterns, the trial, error and reloading needed to beat large groups or tough individual NPCs/monsters might be a bit much, but what you get in return is a game without auto-leveling enemies that still manages to give you challenges throughout the game. The really hard parts of Gothic 3 were due to bugs and/or bad design that was fixed in the patches, such as animals hitting several times a second while stunning you with each hit, meaning you were dead the moment a boar touched you (It could happen with other animals as well, but nowhere near as often.), and NPCs are now almost invulnerable to animal attacks (An unarmed slave killing three wolves by himself is better than the same slave getting torn to pieces by a single wolf before you can take care of the rest of the pack.) While the game IS hard, it’s nothing like the earlier games where you start with nothing at all, getting killed by anything moving until you learn the controls properly, gain some levels and get some equipment. In G3, the hero starts out with decent equipment and fighting skills, and the new fighting system means that orcs, who all use slow weapons, will almost never touch you if you just keep hitting them without pause. Very few enemies are impossible to beat right off the bat, but a lot of them will take more effort than what’s usual in RPGs.

    Arcanum is a fantastic game, but the combat in it is horrible. It’s not very hard, it’s just not good. The choice between turn-based and real-time combat is rather pointless, as one character will almost always be a lot more powerful in one than in the other. A character using magic to fight will find that he can kill vast amounts of enemies in a few turns, while a gunman is usually better off firing his rifle as fast as he can in real-time. Also, should getting a critical miss while backstabbing someone mean stabbing yourself in the neck with all your strength?

    That said, the character building and skills are simply amazing. Your stats affect skills, and both skills and stats affect related actions. You can have some immensely powerful builds (A half-ogre with maxed out strength, dexterity, and mastered combat and backstabbing skills dismembering everyone in the room in a single turn at the cost of a negligible amount of fatigue comes to mind.), or more ‘realistic’ builds like a thief dabbling in magic or a diplomat with firearms training and a bit of skill in making said weapons.

    Magic is divided into a load of different schools, each with only five spells, but the diversity is still pretty great. Technological items are made by characters with points invested in the matching technological disciplines, and there are even schematics out there that demand great skill in several areas, but allow you to make things like a lightning gun, a tonic to revive the dead or similar highly useful items or at least interesting items. Add to this that you can often talk your way out of trouble if your character is charismatic and has a high enough persuasion skill, that dialog options often depend on various stats, skills or discoveries, and you have a great game only hampered by its aged graphics and combat. Only a few characters in the game have spoken lines, but from what I remember most of this is top notch voice acting. If you usually find combat to be an obstacle to gameplay anyway, I urge you to give it a try. Fantastic stories, great characters and more interesting choices than in most RPGs.

    If only the modern RPGs were as deep (or even better, more so) as Arcanum, all would be well in the world.

  57. guy says:

    Play dwarf fortress. it really is fun, and like nethack, you actually can avoid playing it in ASCII. also, you could play an action point MMORPG, which actually takes less time than a good run of minesweeper. they work as follows: you have Y action points, max. you regenerate 1 every 6/15/30 minuites. everything takes at least 1 action point. complex things take more, like rebuilding a door takes 10.

  58. Jeff says:

    Regarding first person shooters on the console…
    My friend and I beat Resistance: Fall of Man on the PS3.
    We’re pretty good with it, I guess.

    At the end of it all, we were both in agreement – “That would be MUCH better with a mouse and keyboard.”

    Getting used to it? Sure you do. Like if you lost your legs. Still is a terrible and horrible thing, but you get used to it.

  59. Corsair says:

    Ah! That reminds me. Shamus, you need to take a look at this, assuming you haven’t seen it already.

    http://www.irontowerstudio.com/index.htm

    It’s an indie game called Age of Decadence that, from what I’ve heard, can best be described as “Fallout in a fantasy setting.” Right down to the inventory, combat, setting, and freedoms.

  60. Fenix says:

    You should check out the witcher, great game, however I’d wait for the enhanced edition which I have too say is commendable on their part.

    Also I have one suggestion for a game on wii that you will want to play when no kids are home, and that is no more hero’s. Extremely fun and made by the guy who made killer 7. The overworld drivings a tad buggy but the rest of the game is amazing. Anyway I cannot stress enough keep the game away from your kids if you decide to check it out.

  61. Derek K says:

    Arcanum is god.
    Fallout is jesus.
    Planescape: Torment is the (un)holy spirit.

    KoTOR, KoTOR II and Mass Effect are the New Testament versions.

    (I know. Jesus Old Testament. The metaphor only goes so far, okay?)

  62. Joshua says:

    You might try reviewing very, very old games. I’d love to see a good review of Rogue or Privateer, or a comparison between older games and what their descendants have become.

    Surely there’s something to do!

  63. Davesnot says:

    I dunno.. NWN1 is still 10th on Gamespy.. that community has 6 years of patches.. 6 years of custom content.. and 6 years of experienced DMs… and NWN2 is rapidly following along and gaining momentum.. and they don’t cost a dime to join up on-line and bash heads with others.. and you can pause.. and just play with your friends without some idiots runnin’ round..

    And it’s for PC.. even Mac now..

    it even has a podcast.. http://www.neverwinternightspodcast.com

    then again.. you tried it once and didn’t like it.. so.. better not go back and see if things are better.

    People rail companies for realeasing buggy crap with lousy stories.. NWN was no exception.. but the developers stuck with the game.. and I think that says something in this day and age.. and is worth seein’ what they’ve done.

    Just besure to update to the most recent patch!

  64. DGM says:

    Shamus,

    I didn’t know that you avoided indie games on purpose. That’s a shame; a rational and honest analysis of the type that you tend to put out can be extremely useful, yet it’s very hard to come by.

    So consider this post a formal request to review The Dungeon (my own creation), as well as a standing invitation to shred anything else I put out in the future. It’s an alpha demo, but it’s fully playable and long enough to be considered a full (if short) game in its own right. The link is: http://dungeon-games.com/files/TheDungeonAlphaDemo8.zip

    And by all means, be as critical as you see fit; if I’m doing anything wrong, I want to know so I can do better in the future.

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