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livredor
They don't make 'em like they used to
Saturday, 30 December 2006 at 11:23 pm
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The kind of computer games I like are easy to learn, addictive and largely abstract. Preferably the action takes place in a single screen (though there may be multiple levels of increasing difficulty), and ideally the controls require no more than half a dozen keys. This means that there aren't really any modern games that I like as much as the old staples: Qix, Snake, Bubble Puzzle, and Donkey-Kong type games. And nothing from the past 20 years has lived up to Tetris!

The big exception is Civilization, which I adore with a passion, and which does depend on somewhat more computing power than was available when I discovered video games at the age of 6 or so. The major problem with Civ is that I'm near incapable of playing it for less than 8 hours at a stretch, and, well, I don't generally have eight hours free for it. There are a few games from the 90s I really wanted to like: Black and White, Grand Theft Auto, Baldur's Gate, Myst. But for me, the learning curve is too steep, the gaming is too complicated, and in the end I'd rather watch someone else play than play myself. (I should add that I never got into Elite, despite appreciating intellectually what an amazing achievement it was, for similar reasons.)

I was hoping that online gaming would encourage people to develop smaller, simpler games again. But nowadays everyone has broadband, so you still get hugely bloated stuff. And then I was hoping that mobile phones would encourage something a bit more sleek, but again, they've got so powerful so quickly that the retro gaming never took off, apart from a few months of my beloved Snake coming back into fashion, thanks to Nokia! I don't have access to my BBC Micro emulation stuff at the moment, so I can't satisfy my craving with that. I suppose something like Popcap is a reasonable substitute; I'm quite fond of Bejeweled, and Zuma / Luxor, though the implementation is overly fancy at the expense of gameplay. And Spogg has a tolerable version of networked Tetris, which is something.

As for the current decade, my feeling is that gaming has maxed out when it comes to technical achievement. There's no room for games to get prettier, or more complicated. In terms of novelty, a lot of what's coming out now is variations on a theme, endless remakes of 90s classics with the graphics even closer to video-realistic, with the world map or the number crunching even more huge than before. Everything I've heard about Katamari Damacy suggests it may actually be doing something original, and I expect I would get on with it too, but I've never found a copy.

It seems like the future of games is the seriously interactive. I've dabbled in Second Life a bit, mainly because I want to be able to tell my friends' grandchildren that I was there right at the start of immersive virtual worlds. So far, it hasn't grabbed me; it's pretty, but I've not managed to do any actual interacting. And my computer, which may not be absolutely cutting edge but is new this year, can't really handle the processing required, so it tends to grind to a halt rather often. I'm not convinced it's possible to get a whole lot out of it without paying vast sums of money to Linden Labs (or eBay entrepreneurs) for premium features, and it doesn't even come close to exciting me enough to want to do that. I suspect it's something that might be more fun if played in company; would anyone like to come and explore with me?

So that leaves the clones and remakes, real classics created for PCs with (usually completely unnecessary) fancy graphics and bells and whistles. Even these are falling out of fashion; it's a lot harder to find decent, simple freeware games for WinXP than it was with Win98. Anyway, I just wanted to record that I have found the ultimate Breakout / Arkanoid clone: Jardinains. This has the additional twist that there are garden gnomes standing on the bricks throwing flowerpots at the bat. The flowerpots can mess you up, whereas you can knock the gnomes off the bricks and bounce them around to get bonuses. It is incredibly silly, but it's just the added touch that makes the game playable and stops it from getting boring in the way that most Breakout versions eventually did. And it gets all the standard features right, powerups that are fun but not over-powerful, right level of difficulty, avoiding endless loops, a good variety of levels including some clever puzzles as well as just pretty designs. It's also surprisingly witty; everything from the gnomes' facial expressions which are deeply cute, to a powerup which not only slows down the ball, but everything, including the sound that the ball makes when it strikes the bricks! And some very funky tricks with fire and ice powerups. Unfortunately, the original game which was free-as-in-beer has been removed and replaced with version 2, which is improved in some ways but which is a shareware / nagware licence. The free version is certainly playable, with 50 levels and no serious restrictions, but eh.

Also, Armagetron is a really well thought-out implementation of the Lightcycles game from the old film, Tron. I loved Tron when it was just a matter of drawing lines on the screen to cut your opponents' lines off. But Armagetron actually recreates the sensation of driving a lightcycle, by doing some really clever things with automated camera angles. It's totally configurable, both in-game and from a command line, and all the details just work. (In theory, it's set up to be playable networked, even, but I've never tried that.)

I think I need an icon for general geekery, (as opposed to talking about science or linguistics). I happened to stumble on a dollmaker that actually provides "long plait" as a hairstyle option, and has a reasonable amount of flexibility without being so over-complicated it's boring to use. So, behold, a vaguely manga-ish version of me!


Whereaboooots: Tron
Moooood: nostalgicretro
Tuuuuune: Monteverdi: Beatus Vir
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cartesiandaemon: default
From:cartesiandaemon
Date:December 30th, 2006 11:49 pm (UTC)
24 minutes after journal entry
(Link)
I know what you mean. I find many very enjoyable games as freeware or weblets, because they're the simple elegant ones. But there seems to be a missing middle ground between those and games from major studios with major budgets and effects.

Or maybe the same number of exciting simple games are out there, just hidden amidst many others.
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From:ploni_bat_ploni
Date:December 30th, 2006 11:55 pm (UTC)
30 minutes after journal entry
(Link)
Didn't know you were a gamer, although I knew about our shared Civ passion.

Totally agree with you. Back to the 8- or 16-bit Nintendo games. Zelda. Mario Bros. Tetris. (I was the Tetris Queen at Highschool. The only think that gave me a morsel of respect in those dark and dim days was my gameboy, a Tetris cartridge and the ability to kick everyone's butt in a 10 mile radius in Tetris).

Well, I do have a cd here that a friend of mine burnt with a whole bunch of old school "simple" Nintendo games on it. You're more than welcome to borrow/copy it.

Games should be relatively simple, of course. It's supposed to be entertaining, relaxing. Not training for a PhD. Though The Boyfriend would disagree: he's into complicated Flight Simulators :-P

Wow... the Manga cartoon. Cool! Where did you find that website! I have to get used to it, but it's definately Cyber! :-D

Shavua tov, and thanks again for everything.
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livredor: geekette
From:livredor
Date:December 31st, 2006 08:56 am (UTC)
9 hours after journal entry, 08:56 am (livredor's time)
(Link)
The dollmaker is linked from the word "dollmaker" in my post. It's a little fiddly; sometimes it gives up in the middle and switches to Japanese and randomizes the doll you're in the middle of. Also, when you've finished it, you can't just click on the picture and save it, you have to actually click on the "save" button and then download the image. I didn't realize that at first and downloaded a bunch of unreadable files. I think it's possible to make a tznius avatar, though it might be a bit of a challenge!

On the whole I don't like any kind of simulators, though I can enjoy racing games if they're pitched just right. I would be very interested to borrow your old-school Nintendo CD though. You are welcome to some of the stuff I've picked up in the course of trawling the web for about 8 years... Hmm, another reason to get you here sometime when it's not shabbat.

Anyway, you can't be the Tetris Queen because I am the Tetris Queen. There is only room for one Queen in Stockholm and I am very willing to prove it :-P
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lethargic_man: beardy
From:lethargic_man
Date:December 31st, 2006 11:18 am (UTC)
11 hours after journal entry, 11:18 am (lethargic_man's time)
(Link)
I think it's possible to make a tznius avatar, though it might be a bit of a challenge!

<hatam_soferet> I can't believe... you used "tznius" as an adjective! </hatam_soferet>

There is only room for one Queen in Stockholm and I am very willing to prove it :-P

Tough luck on Queen... <googles>... Silvia, then. Not to mention the Shabbos Queen. ;^b

So, behold, a vaguely manga-ish version of me!

ITYM a manga-ish version vaguely of you. ;^b
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From:ploni_bat_ploni
Date:December 31st, 2006 05:28 pm (UTC)
18 hours after journal entry
(Link)
*The Battle of the Tetris Crown* it is then!

Let's see which of us two Jewish princesses is the rightful heir...

Hee-hee!!

The dollmaker did look like a lot of effort. Maybe another time.

Happy New Year!
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doseybat: default
From:doseybat
Date:December 31st, 2006 01:01 am (UTC)
1 hours after journal entry, 04:01 am (doseybat's time)
(Link)
Have you played Sim City? I was so so addicted to the original version, in about 1990. Cant say anything about the later editions; that one was simple but profoundly satisfying in some way. I still remember all the graphic detail and the little noise it made when you built a power plant.
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livredor: geekette
From:livredor
Date:December 31st, 2006 09:14 am (UTC)
9 hours after journal entry, 09:14 am (livredor's time)
(Link)
I don't hate Sim City (and related games). I can get into a sort of Zen state, just clicking on things and watching stuff grow. But I find it's not quite enough fun to justify the time it takes; eventually I get bored with it. There's a long time period where it's pretty mechanical, you just build stuff according to a set pattern in order to get to the point where it's big enough to be really challenging.
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rysmiel: it's alive !!!
From:rysmiel
Date:December 31st, 2006 04:23 pm (UTC)
16 hours after journal entry, 12:23 pm (rysmiel's time)
(Link)
*nod* Sim City is to my mind more of a toy than a game. Pretty, but not a thing that keeps me interested.
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lisekit: Mac
From:lisekit
Date:December 31st, 2006 03:01 pm (UTC)
15 hours after journal entry
(Link)
I got my brother Sim City 4 for Xmas - it does look awesome. I might have to get myself a copy!
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lisekit: Wii
From:lisekit
Date:December 31st, 2006 02:58 pm (UTC)
15 hours after journal entry
(Link)
I didn't like Black and White as much as I expected to. Ironically for a scenario in which the player is a god, the game doesn't give you much omnipotence! I found that the various characters in the game would boss me around something awful while I was just trying to explore.

I much prefer The Sims for the autonomy it gives, allowing players to do pretty much whatever they want with their Sims. As well as giving almost infinite play options (I still haven't bothered to upgrade to Sims 2 as there's masses of play left in my original Sims game, despite the many hours I've spent on it over the years), this allows players to enjoy the game on any level they like without having to keep moving from objective to objective. There's plenty to enjoy about the game whatever you do - or don't do - with it.

I like games where you can break the rules of conventional gameplay, too like Sega's Crazy Taxi (you can treat it as a straight driving game, but you receive bonus points if you take unorthodox routes to get your passengers to their destinations quickly). Anything I can pick up and go with instinctively, and which has few restrictions on what I can do, gets my gaming vote!

We like our Wii because it's dead easy to pick up any game made for it and know how to play. And it's very pretty.
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syllopsium: default
From:syllopsium
Date:December 31st, 2006 04:54 pm (UTC)
17 hours after journal entry
(Link)
I can't say I quite agree - there's still room for games to get an awful lot prettier, although from now onwards the improvements may well be a bit more subtle.

Likewise, a really decent AI requires quite a lot of horsepower. However, the real question becomes how realistic a game should be - it's easily possible to make a game too realistic when what's required is escapism.

I think new games will have the horsepower to make them more flexible, but not necessarily more involving. For their time I was just as engrossed with Ultima VII as I was with Baldur's Gate. If you enjoy RPGs, I would definitely recommend you check out Planescape:Torment though - it's heavy on story, conversation and roleplaying instead of fighting.

Of the ones you mention personally I think B&W was fun but became rather samey after a while, GTA is adequate but GTA London is absolutely superb! (I like running over people and flamethrowing coaches whilst having police cars chasing after be shouting 'bastard!'), Myst is very pretty but requires a lot of patience and whilst Baldur's Gate is generally a fine achievement there's a lot of wilderness wandering that isn't to everyone's taste (Baldur's Gate 2 is fantastically more expansive, probably a bit too big, but still a remarkable achievement).

So, yes, I would recommend Galactic Civilizations 2, Jedi Knight 2 - Outcast, Planescape:Torment (difficult to find - try ebay, or ask me nicely *cough* CD burner :) ), GTA London (very cheap, needs original overhead GTA). If you do decide to revisit Baldur's Gate there is the criminally cheap compilation - less than a tenner for four games! Oh yes, and I've not tried it but I fancy Knights of the Old Republic too.
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rysmiel: swan raised by wolves
From:rysmiel
Date:January 1st, 2007 11:42 pm (UTC)
2 days after journal entry, 07:42 pm (rysmiel's time)
(Link)
I can't say I quite agree - there's still room for games to get an awful lot prettier, although from now onwards the improvements may well be a bit more subtle.

I have to admit, I'm somewhat at a loss as to just why "prettier" is an important desirable thing in games, it seems very much secondary to any of the things that make a game interesting to me - for values of "prettier" beyond being able to distinguish everything I need to distinguish clearly, and colour combinations not giving me headaches, and the like.
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syllopsium: default
From:syllopsium
Date:January 2nd, 2007 01:47 am (UTC)
2 days after journal entry
(Link)
In itself prettiness is not the be all and end all of games, but it can greatly improve immersability. Additionally in a virtual world it enables you to wander round and marvel at the sights as an activity in itself rather than following the game plot.

More importantly there's also the issue of keeping up with the competition. People expect progress, the industry moves on and the base standard is raised.

I'll still happily play anything from Nethack to Morrowind, because both are good games despite being light years apart in terms of graphics, but you couldn't sell Nethack anymore and Morrowind is now massively discounted because its sequel is more accessible and an awful lot more pretty (whether it is better is debateable).

It's also largely true that interaction keeps pace with graphical progress. This is not an issue if the interaction, believability and detail is sufficient in an older game, but frequently there are issues with gameplay that are resolved in subsequent years.
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From:curious_reader
Date:December 31st, 2006 09:15 pm (UTC)
21 hours after journal entry
(Link)
If you like Zuma and such simple games tropix is ideal. It has different games like bubble fish, finding matching pairs, sukkudo etc.
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pne: default
From:pne
Date:January 1st, 2007 02:10 pm (UTC)
1 days after journal entry, 03:10 pm (pne's time)

Second Life

(Link)
I'm not convinced it's possible to get a whole lot out of it without paying vast sums of money to Linden Labs (or eBay entrepreneurs) for premium features

I'm not sure it's worth paying money to Linden Labs, at least not if you mean buying a Paid account (whatever it's called there).

The two main selling points of those appear to me to be: (a) the ability to own land, and (b) the weekly stipend.

However, with the Linden dollar being where it is (not to mention the fact that I believe they lowered the weekly stipend for accounts created as of some recent date), I think you get more L$ for your US$ if you buy them outright (e.g. on Lindex, though there are other places, including eBay; shop around comparing exchange rates if you want) than through the weekly stipend.

As for the owning land bit, it's possible to rent (and usually pay a bit less for the same area of land as you'd have paid in "tier" to Linden Labs), or "buy" land on a private island (also usually for less than what you'd pay LL in tier for mainland land, not to mention you'd have to pay an up-front price to the previous owner to buy the plot in the first place).

Land deeded to a group of yours on private islands gives you nearly as much control as land you bought on the mainland, but you can get land deeded to you without needing a Paid Account. It's the way I went, especially when I found a place that sells small plots (starting at 128 or 192 m², I forgot); I didn't need 4096 m² all by myself, since I don't do much with it just yet. Nor am I a builder, who wants to build a nice house and/or rez lots of prims, nor do I regularly entertain people on my patch.

But even if you want larger plots, I'd personally recommend getting deeded land on a private island somewhere and buying L$ on the Lindex over getting a Paid Account.

I suspect it's something that might be more fun if played in company; would anyone like to come and explore with me?

Possibly. Though I tend not to be online much (many weeks, I just log in once to collect my L$ 50 stipend -- which, I believe, new Basic Accounts don't get any more at all, and older ones only get it if they log in at least once the previous week), so I don't know much in the way of interesting places.

I do know that I've had some nice times talking with people during the days when I was online more often and for longer stretches at a go, and also occasionally at dances.

If you'd like to arrange a time (best times for me are around 20:00-21:00 CET), feel free to send me email @livejournal.com.
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rysmiel: silence
From:rysmiel
Date:January 1st, 2007 11:45 pm (UTC)
2 days after journal entry, 07:45 pm (rysmiel's time)
(Link)
The value of anime/schoolgirl that doll is doing feels bordering on not-quite-right-for-you to me in ways that are very hard to articulate. My first take on the semiotics is "someoene intelligent and cheerful and friendly going off to have adventures", which is all well and good; not at all sure I can isolate where the undertone that fails to gel with that is.
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