I forgot this page existed, I’ve been wasting so much time on the C. Dalton Zone. Just got a very short reply to the LadyMOI thread about the RP Story Guide.

Heh.. I thought it was funny. Really I did. :) -carly

Well, I guess that says it all… Musashi’s Guide to Writing UO Roleplaying Stories is the official roleplaying website of OSI! Isn’t that what she said? Oh well, it sounded kinda like that. Well, it didn’t but I’m sure it was implied. Read between the lines, man!

Hmm, why was this reply so short? You can tell just by imagining really hard that obviously LadyMOI was ready to write pages of gushing adoration for the website. My guess is that she didn’t want to wind up like poor C. Dalton, with her own subsection of the site and all the freaks from the Mu forum commenting on her email all the damn time.

In other news… there is no other news! I am at the downstroke of the UO pendulum, which is that cycle I follow where I play UO nonstop, then a little less, then stop playing for a while and just do something more interesting, and when that wears off I go back and screw around in UO again. Everyone who has been playing for a really long time seems to follow this pattern, unless they are insane and really do play constantly. (Some PK friends of mine never get tired of UO. They have discovered the true meaning of Ultima Online!) Kagero just periodically disappears for weeks at a time without warning, leaving everyone in the lurch, then comes back whining about how much Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri / Dark Reign / Everquest / etc. just utterly sucks after having played it for 12 hours a day nonstop. However, we all acknowledge amongst ourselves that UO sucks as well, and in a great big Hooverlike fashion. However, as far as sucky games go, UO has more staying power due to the communities it facilitates, and the vastly varied ways in which one can suck at it. This, combined with the fact that no game has been released in about 2 years which does not suck (with a few exceptions, including Half-Life and Starcraft), is what gives UO its staying power. The mediocre standards of today’s gaming industry help keep UO alive!

Really, though, (beginning old man ranting) does anyone remember when games did not suck? I think back to the early days of DOS-based gaimng, when I had no money at all and yet would go mug people in Central Park so I could pick up the 3 must-have games of the month, and a couple of others which were just good. For those ancient historians out there, this was during the era of classics like Civilization (the original), Master of Orion, X-Com: UFO Defense, Betrayal at Krondor, Doom, Darklands, Starflight, Bard’s Tale, Tie Fighter, and a whole bunch of others I can’t remember but which I bet were way more fun than Trespasser. There weren’t many dogs in the bunch. Games were fun.

(NOTE: At this point, I start blaming Quake for everything bad in the gaming industry. I actually really like Quake, even though it’s really a game engine rather than a game. I think it’s the mentality of the marketplace and how it reacted to Quake that bugs me.)

Then, when Quake became gigantic, there was a glut of sucky Quake clones. At about the same time, there was an explosion in the RTS field, and the store was packed with a bunch of bad copies of Command & Conquer and Total Annhialation. Instead of coming up with new ideas, game companies were looking to come out with games that would kill off their competition’s games, which were pretty much the same. The cloning phenomenon reached into other, more neglected game areas as well… I remember buying Wages of War because I liked Jagged Alliance so much, and removing it from my hard drive after 15 minutes. Microprose continued their tradition of rehashing code from previous games, which they started in the whole "Master Of…" series, never bothering to fix the glaring bugs inherent in the code, hoping maybe that the new, game-shattering bugs would keep people from noticing they hadn’t fixed memory stack allocation errors that were there two years ago. The now-accepted practice of releasing buggy games with the promise of patching later came into widespread use. Now the frequency of good games being published dropped to about one every month, or two months.

Another Quake-related phenomenon was the importance of 3d chipsets. 3dfx, the company which now spends its time cutting its own throat in the marketplace with the biggest dipshit decisions in 3d history, owes just about ALL of its early success to GL Quake and the Diamond Monster 3D card. Yes, I bought my Monster 3D despite the fact that I didn’t care about Quake at the time, but I don’t think I would have ever even heard about the Monster 3D were it not for GL Quake. After this explosion, chipset manufacturers tried to play catch-up, and game companies began paying more and more attention to 3D coding. There were an awful lot of games from this era (and even today) which are little more than 3D chipset showcases. Anyone ever actually try to play Barrage? Games that were actually fun to play decreased even further.

The explosion of networked multiplayer gaming with the success of internet Quake made multiplayer an important, must-have feature of upcoming games. No multiplayer = less revenue. The hotseat option was a joke at this point… not that it was ever really fantastic to begin with. Now companies needed to spend more time and resources making sure they had some form of TCP/IP networking, or at least toss up some IPX servers users could connect to via TCP/IP, i.e. Battle.net and its sucky contemporary, Active.net. Since multiplayer functionality was usually just some sort of wrapper on the game code, rather than being coded directly in (this started happening later), new bugs arose. Sometimes they were fixed (any id game), sometimes not (any Activision game). More resources being thrown into haphazard networking functionality = less resources into game design and writing. The incidence of really sucky games continued to increase.

What’s the point? Games like Betrayal at Krondor were amazing because the quality of the gameplay and the writing (in games where writing was a factor) were primary, and the coding was a support mechanism to facilitate the story and the play. Now, games are usually thin concepts or rehashed crap that are wrapped around some new, half-functional, unwelcome technological advance. These "advances" are usually graphical in nature, which are good to sell games and to show off my video array, but I couldn’t care less if Unreal has reflective/transparent water and rich palettes if it’s not fun to play. I still play Starcraft instead of Myth or Myth II, because I’d rather be able to control my units and pay attention to the game than spend an hour adjusting my viewpoint in Myth’s 3d interface so I can see how many stupid archers I have before they all get killed.

Where does this leave us today? Subjectively, the only games I can say were actually great recently are Starcraft, Fallout (the first) and Half-Life. Games that weren’t great but were still kinda fun: Shogo. That’s it. (Ultima Online sucks, but I tend to play it in spite of this. Anything good in UO comes not from the game, but from its players, often in spite of the code, support staff, etc. I would never recommend UO to anyone.) Note that I play a lot of games, most of them for about an hour before it becomes painfully obvious that they just suck, or have an appeal that lasts for about 45 minutes before they become really boring. (I’m still toying around with Thief: The Dark Project, so the jury is out on it. I have a feeling that it will be "not great but still kinda fun".)

Not that anyone cares, but if some of you have no idea where I’m coming from about games, here’s a brief categorical list of games I can remember playing and what I did with them. While reading this list, you may find that you disagree with some of my assessments of these games, but this can be easily explained by the fact that you must be horribly wrong. 8P

CATEGORY VI: Removed from hard drive almost immediately Wages of War, Daggerfall, Betrayal at Antara (you SUCK Sierra!), Die By the Sword, Trespasser, Ultima VII (any of them), Rage of Mages, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, Myth, Myth II, Postal, Starsiege, Heroes of Might and Magic II, Heroes of Might and Magic III, Shadows Over Riva, Barrage, G-Police, Perfect Weapon, Warzone 2100, Mechwarrior: Mercenaries

CATEGORY V: Tortured self trying to enjoy before removing from hard drive within a few days Battlecruiser 3000 AD v1.07D5, Unreal, Star Trek TNG: A Final Unity, X-Com: Terror From the Deep, Arena, Sid Meier’s Gettysburg, Dark Reign, Warcraft II, Everquest, Koshan Conspiracy, Diablo, Heroes of Might and Magic, Shadows of the Empire, F-117A Stealth Fighter, Command & Conquer: Red Alert, Baldur’s Gate, Descent: Freespace

CATEGORY IV: Played for a while until I came to my senses Battlezone, Rainbow Six, Descent II, Grim Fandango, The Realm, Fallout II, Emperor of the Fading Suns, Caesar III, Street Fighter II Turbo, Sim City 2000, Final Fantasy VII, Outlaws, Warcraft, Blood, Sid Meier’s Covert Ops, Ultima VI (removed after I finished it in 3 days, then replayed and finished in 30 minutes), Colonization, Imperialism, Falcon 3.0, Microsoft Flight Simulator (original), Timothy Leary’s Mind Mirror

CATEGORY III: Judged good enough not to delete until cheesy operating system forced reformatting Quake, Virtua Fighter I, Virtua Fighter II, X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter, Descent, Curse of Monkey Island, Darklands, Ultima V, Civilization II, Warlords II, Fantasy General, Star Trail, Dungeon Keeper, Genghis Khan II, Chessmaster 5000, Jedi Knight, Gabriel Knight II: The Beast Within

CATEGORY II: Really enjoyed a lot and bashed people for using warez copies of Starcraft, Half-Life, Master of Orion II, Quake II, Bard’s Tale II, Doom, Heavy Gear, Shogo, Star Trek 25th Anniversary, X-Com: UFO Defense, Mechwarrior II, Tomb Raider (the original), Ancient Art of War, Colossal Cave Adventure, Nethack

CATEGORY I: Wasted life, blew off social engagements, stopped bathing in order to play Fallout, Betrayal at Krondor, Civilization, Master of Orion, Master of Magic, Starflight, Jagged Alliance: Deadly Games, Ultima III, Ultima IV, Bard’s Tale, Wizard’s Crown, Tie Fighter (Ultima Online does not appear in the above rating list, as its criteria for playing are based on factors outside the game itself. If it were rated on the merits of its code and fun factor, it would be in Category VI.)

Please note that these assessments are from playing the games when they were released. For instance, although Star Trail and Shadows Over Riva are essentially the same game in every way, I took Shadows Over Riva back to the store after I saw the interface once, since it was years after Star Trail, had horrendously high system requirements, and cost a lot more for the same technology.

If you were bored enough to read all of that, you may notice that category I consists of almost all games which are over 3 years old, while category VI includes a lot of crap I had the misfortune of trying recently. Coincidence? I think not. I never ever returned a game to Electronics Boutique before Daggerfall, even if it sucked (just because I had so many good games, and a misguided sense of loyalty)… now I return about 1/3 to 1/2 of the pieces of dogshit I bring home from the mall, and usually wind up keeping one just because I’m sick of driving around and exchanging bad games. Luckily, the people who work at EB in my area don’t seem to give me a hard time about it, as I am a longtime customer there. I am also a lot bigger than they are and inspire more fear than they do.

I seem to have forgotten the point of all this, besides just complaining about how much games suck these days. Not much of a point… but then, this is a rant page. 8P

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