I am, by nature, a non-gambling man. I have severe risk-aversion. So it is very rare that I’ll run into the software store and get something without first playing a demo, asking around, or reading a review. However, every once in a long while I do make an impulse purchase. Whenever I do this I rarely end up with something mundane – it will either be a favorite or (more commonly) utter crap. Still, I’ve found enough gems doing this over the years to encourage me to keep doing it.
What followed was several weeks of near obsession. The game seeped deep into my pores and eventually infected me to the point where all other games were judged through my myopic System Shock lens. It instilled in me a love for “open-ended first person roleplaying”, a genre so small I doubt there have been ten titles that could be described this way since 1994. From there I went on to play System Shock 2 and then the various incarnations of the Thief series. (Which are close cousins to System Shock gameplay-wise.) Eventually I wrote a novel based on the game.
I think I got my $40 out of it.
I picked up Planescape: Torment in the Bargain Bin for $10. It was pretty old by the time I tried it. It was already considered a “classic” by some, although I’d totally missed it. I had no idea what I was getting. In fact, I thought the game was called Planetscape: Torment. I thought it was sci-fi. I only got it because it was $10. I didn’t love it as much as some, but it was still an excellent and interesting RPG, and a steal for ten bucks.
To this day I don’t know why the game sold so poorly. The graphics were amazing. The voice-acting was excellent, in an age where programmers all too often did their own voice work. The game was stable. It was long. It was imaginative. The AI was good enough to keep up with games of today, and was way ahead back in 1999. The music was of stellar quality, recorded by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra. The dialog was lots of fun.
Consession: The quests got a little tedious late in the game, and parts of the game were a little cliché. Still, that is hardly a reason for the game to wind up where it did, which is in with the dregs of PC software.
Master of Orion was a good one. I’d just installed a CD drive into my computer, and was looking to build my collection of CD games and move away from floppies. MOO was one of the only CD titles in Wal-Mart that day, so I bought it. This was a silly reason to buy a game, but it worked out.
I also want to mention that 1999 was an incredible year for PC gaming. Planescape Torment. Unreal Tournament. Quake III Arena. Starcraft. Age of Empires II. Everquest. Homeworld. System Shock 2. I think I’m forgetting a couple, but you get the idea. I don’t think we’ve had a year like that one since.
Deus Ex and The Treachery of Labels
Deus Ex Mankind Divided was a clumsy, tone-deaf allegory that thought it was clever, and it managed to annoy people of all political stripes.
Quakecon 2012 Annotated
An interesting but technically dense talk about gaming technology. I translate it for the non-coders.
The Middle Ages
Would you have survived in the middle ages?
Final Fantasy X
A game about the ghost of an underwater football player who travels through time to save the world from a tick that controls kaiju satan. Really.
The Game That Ruined Me
Be careful what you learn with your muscle-memory, because it will be very hard to un-learn it.