You probably should play all of these...
October 23, 2014 10:39 AM   Subscribe

With thousands of reader suggestions, Kotaku has published a directory of "Classic PC games you must play". The most voted for free games [links go to places you can download games]: Star Control II, Tyrian, Zork, Battle Zone, Myth II, and Daggerfall. Some of the most votes for games that are available for $10 or less:Master of Orion ($5),Quest for Glory ($10), Planescape ($10), Total Annihilation ($6), Heroes of Might and Magic III ($9), Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis ($5), Little Big Adventures 2 ($5), Descent ($10), and Betrayal at Krondor ($6). More idiosyncratic than PC Games list of the top games, but the people have spoken...
posted by blahblahblah (107 comments total) 108 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ultima Underworld? No? Sheesh.

All your WoW and Oblivions should kneel before their ancestor.
posted by Cosine at 10:41 AM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


Edit: Oh, wait, there it is... move along.

(still an amazing game though)
posted by Cosine at 10:42 AM on October 23, 2014


No M.U.L.E.? Boo.
posted by COBRA! at 10:43 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


With any list, this is gonna be argued out some more ..

(can't view them, blocked by proxy here, but if Wasteland, Fallout, the original Might and Magic, and more of the lucas arts SCUMM games aren't on the list, I'mma have words ... Unless "can be legally bought now" is one of the criterion .. )
posted by k5.user at 10:43 AM on October 23, 2014


Yeah, I'm not a gamer of any stripe, but I'm still kind of trying to figure out how to play some of the previous Monkey Island games.
posted by Madamina at 10:46 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I just included those that were seconded and thirded on the list, and which were available for free or cheap. Most of the SCUMM games are hard to get (Loom, for example)

They included most of the Ultimas, though they skipped III (boo!) and IX (thank God).
posted by blahblahblah at 10:47 AM on October 23, 2014


Plate o' shrimp: I just fell into a Heroes Chronicles hole a couple weeks ago. Decades old muscle memory re-awakes.
posted by whuppy at 10:48 AM on October 23, 2014


You can buy the "remastered" versions of the first two Monkey Island games on Steam. Those have updated graphics, voice acting, etc. But you can also switch them to classic mode if you'd prefer to play that way.
posted by tau_ceti at 10:48 AM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


Pizza ... Tycoon? Not Railroad? Not Transport? (flips over TV tray)

Also Delta Force 1/2 were my favorites; the voxel rendering had a je ne sais quoi that 3D-accelerated polygons didn't.

Still I've only played 10% or less of these titles. Ah, to be young and single again.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:49 AM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


There's definitely some SCUMM games on the list, which is as it should be, even if I'm nursing a long standing grudge with The Dig over a puzzle I can't quite remember.

In the world of classic adventure games, it's missing Gold Rush! which is a real shame.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:49 AM on October 23, 2014


MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat

Why: The first time I watched the opening cinematic for MW2 I was stunned.


I vividly remember watching the MW2 opening cinematic and being so overwhelmed I had to turn the game off and walk away for like 2 hours
posted by hellojed at 10:51 AM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


As far as I can tell, they included every iteration of Command and Conquer, except for the ones I have actually played.
posted by ckape at 10:52 AM on October 23, 2014


Solid list! Most of my favorites are on here, from what I can tell (in no order: Gabriel Knight, Master of Magic, Ultimas 5-7, Ultima Underworld I/II, Quest for Glory IV, King's Quest IV, Little Big Adventure, Zork I-III, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Betrayal at Krondor, Bard's Tale I/II, Monkey Island I/II, Morrowind, Lemmings, Planescape, Colonization, System Shock 2, X-Com)

Little known French adventure game that deserves to be on this list: Ween: The Prophecy
posted by naju at 10:55 AM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


Also! Self-link warning, I recently made a mix of old PC game music and posted it on soundcloud: DOS POP
posted by naju at 10:57 AM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Wait, have we double-checked that this article was compiled ethically?
posted by COBRA! at 10:58 AM on October 23, 2014 [14 favorites]


Have you played? is an endless serious of suggestions for older games.
posted by empath at 11:03 AM on October 23, 2014


Star Wars: X-Wing
Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter


These two flight sims are the most fun I've ever had playing video games (circa 1993?), which isn't to say they're the best games I've played (though within their genre they're classics). Anybody know of any modern sci-fi themed flight mission games with similar play control? I'd snatch that shit right up.
posted by echocollate at 11:04 AM on October 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


List has Crusader: No Regret, which is a bit odd because that was really sort of a glorified expansion pack for No Remorse. (which is awesome). Those two games should win some kind of special award for Most Awesome Use of a Terrible Engine (the Ultima 8 Pagan engine).

Also, that music... so good.

(Ultima 8 is also on the list which is... hmm. Sure, OK pal.)

Also, that music... so good.

Outpost 2? Chex Quest? There are some jokesters in here.

Starflight: Yes! We need a version of FTL that is closer to this game from a billion years ago.

Tribes: what I did my sophomore year in college instead of schoolwork, or, you know... anything.

Unreal Tournament: the original is still such a great game, I go back and play it all the time.

So many great memories on this list.
posted by selfnoise at 11:05 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've been a PC gamer for a long, long while now, and have a lot of good memories of playing most of these games. But I can't go back. I'm fine with remasters and remakes. I love retro art design in my modern indie games. But once you're looking at something from the days before VGA, or mouse control, or tool tips, or tutorials, or whatever, I'm out. I'm glad that GOG takes many of these games and puts them in a position to work on a modern PC. I've even bought a few. But as soon as I boot them the nostalgia is replaced by disappointment. Low-res art. Poor controls. And expectation that you read and memorized a 200 page manual before starting your first game.

I know somebody's going to look at me and think I'm no different than someone who refuses to watch black and white movies, but that's not the comparison. It's more like I'd rather listen to music without crackle and hiss and having to turn the record over after 5 songs.
posted by thecjm at 11:09 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Syndicate Wars (drools)
posted by Damienmce at 11:12 AM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


I thought it was odd to include X-Wing and X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter, but not Tie Fighter which was clearly the best of the series.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:12 AM on October 23, 2014 [8 favorites]


(Ultima 8 is also on the list which is... hmm. Sure, OK pal.)

This game is widely hated, but I love it! I actually was in the middle of writing a piece on Medium making a case for it, but then a bunch of stuff happened and I only got halfway through. But yes, this game is super underloved and very good, even if it's nowhere near a typical Ultima experience.

The main relevant paragraph:

"Look, there are many valid criticisms of the game. There’s no denying that it had a troubled development history and was rushed to production by parent company Electronic Arts. The platforming bits are a bit over-emphasized, the battle system and inventory management a bit undercooked. The controls are kind of strange. It’s hard to defend everything about it. But apart from series expectations, I still believe Pagan stands on its own as a fantastic and interesting game. It’s bizarre, beautiful and truly singular, like no other game world ever conceived, and I think there’s much worth exploring and enjoying in it. Its atmosphere has been largely misunderstood, cast as a failure rather than its greatest strength. Its flaws only make it that much more gloriously odd. It’s kind of unloveable in a lot of ways, and that fits its nature perfectly. This is a game that doesn’t WANT you to feel comfortable, doesn’t want you to embrace it. It’s kind of a precursor to the deliberately unfriendly nature of Dark Souls in that respect."

About the art and atmosphere:

"Not a single pixel is out of place. Gnarly ancient trees, tiny misshapen mushrooms popping up everywhere, patches of land where grass doesn’t grow, haphazard vegetal outgrowths. It feels less designed and more organic than most other RPG worlds I’ve seen. Houses are crumbling, civilization is barely holding on. Littered throughout the land are dilapidated old shacks that are taken over by ghosts and creatures. Nature and chaos is constantly reclaiming everything."
posted by naju at 11:17 AM on October 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


Wow DAOC is still up and running? Must... not... click...
posted by Splunge at 11:17 AM on October 23, 2014


Descent! That was my jam freshman year of college. What a great game, especially networked. Homing missles! With cameras!
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:17 AM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


Not a bad list, though I was baffled at the lack of both Secret of Monkey Island and TIE Fighter, the best of the Star Wars flight sim games. I would also have probably included the Star Trek point-and-click games, 25th Anniversary and Judgement Rights, and Wing Commander: Armada, the multiplayer turn-based strategy flight sim hybrid. Probably the first two Duke Nukems, too -- they were significantly better platfomers than the Commander Keen series.

Oh, and I hated the Journeyman Project games.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 11:18 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Anybody know of any modern sci-fi themed flight mission games with similar play control?

Haven't tried it, but the internets are excited about Star Citizen.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:19 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ah! Tyrian is one of my favorite OSTs!
posted by rebent at 11:19 AM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


This is why the current Silver Age of PC gaming is great. It actually picks up on abandoned styles of gameplay and updates them so that they are no longer intolerable:

Wasteland 2 gives me the overly complicated RPG skill trees and giant world, but without the impossible difficulty curve and obscure systems, and without some of the (mixed bag) inter-character dramatics of the hub-and-spoke style Bioware games. Not to mention Torment, Pillars of Eternity, Divine Divinity, etc.

Elite Dangerous looks like an awesome reboot of the space fighter sim/trader.

Some classic adventure game-style play (Broken Age, Dreamfall) without dumb puzzles or bad parsers.

And we are getting a new Alpha Centauri (kinda) in a couple days!
posted by blahblahblah at 11:20 AM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


I definitely too young for a few of these games when they came out (I remember being completely perplexed by Ultima), but a lot of them I remember fondly. Copies of PC Gamer with demo disks. Going to computer swap meets and getting floppy disks full of shareware.

There was one game - I'm pretty sure it was X Wing vs Tie Fighter - it was heavily advertised as requiring hardware graphics acceleration back when graphics cards basically didn't exist. Like, the graphics in this game are so good you're going to need to add parts to your PC to get it to work! I had the demo but never bought the full game because it took us a long time to get a computer with a graphics card in it.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:24 AM on October 23, 2014


FTL is another new game that feels like a more polished early PC game to me. Real time strategy space combat (but with use of the pause button encouraged) and exploration with an intuitive interface.

You don't need to micromanage things, and can instead focus on the big picture.
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:27 AM on October 23, 2014


This list is also in serious need of some Cannon Fodder.
posted by naju at 11:28 AM on October 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


This list is a great trip down memory lane, but given my recent experience watching a couple of the Giant Bomb guys play through Metal Gear Solid (one a huge fan, one having never played any MGS at all)... I wonder how palatable these older games are to modern eyes, even with decent emulation. The Giant Bomb videos are behind a (cheap) pay wall, so I won't bother linking them here. But even more than that, related to this stuff is another on-going thing I've been watching lately. It's a show put on by Day9 (most well-known for his Starcraft strategy analysis show and tournament commentating).

It's called Mostly Walking. It's Day9 and two friends sitting around, having some beers and playing their way through old adventure games. They started with King's Quest 6, then did The Dig and just this week started the VGA version of Quest For Glory 1[1]. (QFG1 doesn't seem to have been added to the playlist yet.)

They goof around and try silly things and have fun with it. But they also talk a lot about the design of the games because they're all to one degree or another game designers. And I'm regularly surprised by how much of the totally inscrutable BS that's in these games is just kind of glossed over in my mind. I liked KQ6 a lot when it was new and it's the only one I've played (multiple times even). I played a bit of The Dig and see my over-long footnote or QFG below... And it makes sense to me that I wouldn't necessarily recognize this stuff for what it is in the case of QFG1 because I've known what to do for pretty much my entire stupid life, but KQ6 was quite shocking. I could remember most of the solutions to things and what not and where I didn't was kind of appalled at some of the the hoops the game makes you jump through.

I'm sure similar experiences can be had with games of all stripes that are "vintage" and I'd never want these games to be forgotten or lost entirely, but I wonder how palatable they are to an average gamer today.

[1] - Nostalgia side note. QFG1 (or Hero's Quest as it was initially released as) and QFG2 were huge, huge favorites of mine. I still replay them about once a year or so despite knowing them backwards and forwards. However, my experiences of those two games were shaped by the EGA versions which have blocky, much lower-res graphics and make use of a text interpreter with limited point and click functionality (as was the style at the time, he says, onion on his belt). The VGA QFG1 redo just looks weird to me. Not bad. But for me, your character's outfit is way different and everything's in this uncanny valley where it's everything I recognize but nooooot quite. I found the fan remake of QFG2 much more palatable as an update for various reasons and sorta wish Day9 and crew had gone with that one. Maybe another time!
posted by sparkletone at 11:33 AM on October 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


The Blade Runner adventure game comments praised its compatibility with newer computers, including the remark, "It actually runs better today than when it came out!"

Kind of a sad thing that's not the norm, although I know that back compatibility is difficult and Windows probably puts the most effort into it of all popular operating systems. Then you add in tricks that work because of quirks on older hardware, and all bets are off.
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:37 AM on October 23, 2014


I was thinking about posting Kingdom of Kroz yesterday, but the controls are terrible for laptops and I decided that I didn't want to put up anything that I couldn't myself enjoy.

So thanks for feeding my DOS game jones.
posted by klangklangston at 11:37 AM on October 23, 2014


Glad to see that Escape Velocity and Scarab of Ra made it onto a list. Growing up in a Mac only household (and no consoles either until Dreamcast/xBox) it's easy to feel left out of a lot of the classic gaming nostalgia but there were definitely some classics for the Mac. Sometimes I'll fire up Mini vMac, a Macintosh Plus emulator, to play some classic games like Stunt Copter, Glider or Mahjong or even just to mess around in the old paint programs. It's small enough that you can fit pretty much every piece of software on a USB drive that you can plug in to just about any computer and have everything you could ever want (as of the late 80's) right there.
posted by metaphorever at 11:38 AM on October 23, 2014


The Blade Runner adventure game comments praised its compatibility with newer computers, including the remark, "It actually runs better today than when it came out!"

Kind of a sad thing that's not the norm, although I know that back compatibility is difficult and Windows probably puts the most effort into it of all popular operating systems. Then you add in tricks that work because of quirks on older hardware, and all bets are off.


Things are certainly a lot better than they used to be for the DOS era games; most everything now can be convinced to run in DosBox. Early Windows games, on the other hand...

It's funny; given the growth in PC gaming recently I think there are a lot of people who never experienced the DOS era where just getting a game to work could take longer than actually playing the game. I remember I had a lot of problems with Crusader: No Remorse and was just so happy when the main menu finally came up unscrambled. And there were games like Master of Magic that required their own boot disk (but really not a big deal, I mean why play any other game?)
posted by selfnoise at 11:43 AM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


This list is also in serious need of some Cannon Fodder.

Oh, man. My memory of this game (possibly inaccurate) is that I played the shareware version of it so much I burned out on it and never needed to ask my parents to buy me the full version. Hadn't thought about that one in ages.
posted by sparkletone at 11:45 AM on October 23, 2014


What as that game where you flew some pixels left and right that resembled a biplane, and you had to land to get fuel and you dropped bombs with contrails that looked like ' ....... ' with the spacebar?

Yea, that one... that was fun.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:45 AM on October 23, 2014


What as that game where you flew some pixels left and right that resembled a biplane, and you had to land to get fuel and you dropped bombs with contrails that looked like ' ....... ' with the spacebar?

One of my earliest gaming memories is playing a game called, no joke, Potty Pigeon on a friend's Commodore 64. You uh. You don't drop bombs, but you do do damage.
posted by sparkletone at 11:48 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


What as that game where you flew some pixels left and right that resembled a biplane, and you had to land to get fuel and you dropped bombs with contrails that looked like ' ....... ' with the spacebar?

Yea, that one... that was fun.


Sopwith.
posted by selfnoise at 11:48 AM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


And we are getting a new Alpha Centauri (kinda) in a couple days!

Unlocks tonight at midnight, and I will mostly assuredly be counting down the seconds.

Also: holy shit - this list includes Independence War 2, Rise of The Triad, Sacrifice, *and* Giants: Citizen Kabuto, so it might actually be worth something. See, any asshole can just go fill in the blanks between Baldur's Gate 2, Deus Ex, Freespace 2, Master of Orion 2, Planescape Torment, Privateer, XCom - and so many of them do.

But Sacrifice and Giants: Citizen Kabuto? Independence War 2 and ROTT? Those are the fingerprints of a genuine hardcore gamer from the era, someone who actually lived it. Props to whoever put Blake Stone, One Must Fall 2097, and Raptor: Call of the Shadows up there. Essential? Hardly, but they're still important supporting threads.

Dink Smallwood? Hah. Absolutely not, but you'll turn out alright, kid.
posted by Ryvar at 12:03 PM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


I am so happy to see Twinsen's Odyssey (LBA2) on here. I feel like I was the only one who ever played this game growing up. Trying to explain it to people, I was always met with blank, skeptical stares.
posted by mister_oxenfree at 12:09 PM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Ah! I just noticed Strife on that list, too! That was one of my favorites; I had unfortunately lost my copy and spent at least a few years trying to find another copy of that game. It was an open-world-ish sort of Doom clone with RPG elements -- here is a video review of the game by Ross of Freeman's Mind.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 12:20 PM on October 23, 2014


I'm currently replaying Planescape for the first time in about five years. Glad to say it holds up really well!
posted by Itaxpica at 12:22 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yes, Sacrifice is really good. If you played Brutal Legends, it's kind of the same genre; third-person action RTS. However, unlike Brutal Legends, it actually does it well, probably because it uses the mouse competently and doesn't spend 2/3 of the game desperately trying to hide that it's an RTS.

If you want to play Neverwinter Nights 1 or 2, make sure to play the expansions Hordes of the Underdark (1) or Mask of the Betrayer (2). The writing in them is hands-down superior to that of the original game, almost at Planescape: Torment level.

Unreal Tournament 2004 is great, and probably better than the original. You might want to start there if you want to experience the series (UT2003 is nearly entirely subsumed by 2004 and UT3 is bad and should be avoided).

Mechwarrior 3 is also good. I don't know why it's off the list if 4 is on there (I hope MW4:Mercenaries was better than MW4:Vengeance, because the latter was terrible and basically killed the series).

Descent 1, 2, and 3 are notable in their ability to cause motion-sickness in some people who can play FPS games without motion sickness.

Seconding the recommendation for No One Lives Forever 1 and 2. I have no idea why there hasn't been another game in that series yet. I mean, hell, you play a superspy and in the second one you get to have a shootout with a ninja in a trailer that's being blown away by a tornado. What more did you want?
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:33 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I recently had the pleasure of listening to Wil Wheaton's rendition of "Masters of Doom". The book spelled out for me something that I had long suspected: that there are, in fact, two important gaming lineages. The first is Japanese; this is where we get our Pac-Mans, our Marios, our our happy technicolor backdrops and our bleeps and bloops. But the second originated from computer programming. In this branch, independent programmers with rebellious attitudes created the mysterious worlds of Zork and Rogue, the complex gameplay of Civilization and Warcraft, and the dark and violent fantasy of the first-person shooter. Even the "happy" games in this branch were slightly off-kilter: David Kushner mentions in the book how Tom Hall wanted enemies in the original Commander Keen to leave behind their bodies, so as to drive home the finality of death to players.

Most indie games today, I've noticed, take inspiration primarily from the Japanese side of things. But this list sure brings some memories back. Unlike many of my peers, I grew up on Apogee's shareware catalogue, and I wish some indies took that as their inspiration rather than Mario. Few games out today really convey the sense of mystery, darkness, and exploration that those old DOS games had for me. (Perhaps coincidentally, the one that does the most — La-Mulana — originated in Japan's own burgeoning PC homebrew community!)
posted by archagon at 12:36 PM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


Wow, Goblins 3 is on here. That game deserves more praise. So good.
posted by archagon at 12:44 PM on October 23, 2014


Lots of memories there. Descent was amazing, one of my favorites. Still working on my replay of Wizardry VI, VII, and 8.. at least I finally beat Wizardry VII after like 15 years. I've got fond memories of taking over the school's video editing lab so we could play networked games of Myth II, that game was so much fun. Glad to see Zork and it's a classic but there's quite a few more Infocom games that should be on this list. Marathon, pretty much the only game worth playing on a Mac in that era. Good times, good times.
posted by davros42 at 12:52 PM on October 23, 2014


Seconding the recommendation for No One Lives Forever 1 and 2. I have no idea why there hasn't been another game in that series yet

The title has changed hands so many times that no one is quiet sure who owns the rights anymore. It's exhibit A for anyone who wants to argue for abandonware; not some obscure floppy disk from 1985 but a widely released and celebrated title that's slipped through the cracks of corporate mergers and bankruptcy auctions and just vanished as far as rights ownership is concerned.
posted by thecjm at 12:52 PM on October 23, 2014


Total annihilation is indeed a great game, but holy fuck the AI is shit. Even at the time, it was shit. Starcraft, which was chronologically its stablemate had an AI that was pretty good and got updated to be mean. In TA, once you had the basics down and a slightly-above-noob strategy(basically "build lots of missile towers and spam out a bunch of one decent unit") you couldn't lose.

There's stuff out there like the MAD(or was it M.A.D.?) TA ai that you may or may not still be able to download but stock it's just not very fun without real multiplayer against actual humans.

And, heh, who else remembers all the hilarious rules people came up with for online play? "no emg/no nuke/nr 20" games etc, and it just grew from there. It was definitely a lot more nuanced in game rules than starcraft was, at least back then.

People doing these reissues really need to launch their own gamespy style matchmaking server, because for a lot of the games(including Mw2) getting mentioned here, the real fun was multiplayer.

And seriously, multiplayer TA was a fucking blast. Especially with the expansion pack maps, like some of the air only or just generally weird ones.

The graphics in this game hold up very, very well too. It basically looks like starcraft 2. Especially on a 720/1080p monitor where everything gets zoomed out. And really, a lot of the stuff like meteors falling in and various ways terrain of the map effected things is stuff that still seems innovative today in modern RTS/MOBA games. Weapons fire can set a tree on fire, and if you're hiding in the trees right next to it the burning tree can cause damage to your units. And trees will set eachother on fire if they're too close to eachother. And there's calculated hit percentages for weapons and you actually see them hit or miss.

Also individual units gain skill the longer they're around. A bomber that's been on 20 bombing runs and successfully destroyed a bunch of targets will basically never miss, and will more efficiently corner so it spends less time turning in big arcs when it can be shot at, and will do cool stuff like bomb while turning so the centrifugal force(which is a thing in this game!) throws the bomb diagonally at the target and it doesn't have to get as close.

I was obsessed with this game when i was like 10-13, and i still notice cool little details like that when i play it occasionally. It's just so lush with clever detail, and the art and graphics still look awesome. Its aged more gracefully than any other PC game i can think of. Yea, the unit pathfinding can be terrible, and there's a few other things that reveal its true age. But mostly it just looks and sounds really pretty and there's tons of cool stuff to notice.

Hell, the sound effects in it are so good that i still hear them in TV commercials and transformers stupid-explosion type cgi laden movies, because they seemingly all got sold off in to some stock sounds library people buy.
posted by emptythought at 12:57 PM on October 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


Fortunately, it looks like that's going to change.
posted by archagon at 12:58 PM on October 23, 2014


> People doing these reissues really need to launch their own gamespy style matchmaking server, because for a lot of the games(including Mw2) getting mentioned here, the real fun was multiplayer.

It looks like GoG is doing something... like that. Maybe.
posted by archagon at 1:01 PM on October 23, 2014


Master of Orion might legitimately be responsible for my current life. I loved Master of Orion so much, played so many hours, and when Master of Orion 2 came out my aging family PC couldn't run it. At the time I had no computer skills or interest, really, but a technology teacher told me to bring my family's computer into school. So I lugged the huge thing into his room during lunch, and the most wonderful thing happened. Without seeming too worried about anything at all he popped it right open and showed me the inside of a computer. Then he went into his office and came back with two new thingies (I'd later learn to call RAM sticks), popped one out of my computer, and stuck the two new ones in. Just like that. Then he closed the whole thing up, plugged it into spare keyboard/monitor/mouse he had lying around, and booted it up. He showed me how to check and see that my computer had more RAM now. Then he and I installed Master of Orion 2, and started it up to be sure it worked, which it did of course. All that, to help his student play a game which had absolutely nothing to do with school. And he never asked for anything, for the cost of the RAM or anything, which never occurred to me at the time but sure did later as I started building my own PCs from scratch. Today I have a degree in computer science, work as a database admin, and have boxes of computer parts in my home office to play with. And my god did I play a lot of MOO2 over the years.

Thanks, Mr. Berenty, wherever you are these days.

/and if I ever bump into the GNN guy in a dark alley...he will regret all those things he did to me.
posted by jermsplan at 1:05 PM on October 23, 2014 [15 favorites]


Independence War is not the best game ever made, nor is it the hardest to run on modern hardware. But there's been almost nothing even remotely like it - huge ships, multiple roles to manage, more-or-less straight Newtonian physics - and the 3D support was 3Dfx-exclusive. Which means that, for my money, it's the most tragically lost game I can think of, pound-for-pound.

Sigh.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:12 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


there's calculated hit percentages for weapons and you actually see them hit or miss.

In Total Annihilation? I don't think it used hit percentages. I think it used actual game physics calculations to determine the ballistic trajectory of projectiles and if a unit occupied the space the projectile passed through, it got it.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:17 PM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


The writing in them is hands-down superior to that of the original game, almost at Planescape: Torment level.

Ooh. I'm gonna check this out, because that's crazy high praise. In many ways, Planescape is my platonic ideal for an RPG.

Also, seeing Morrowind on this list makes me feel old, and realize that I might finally have a PC that can adequately run it (although I specifically remember it being victim to the "Bethesda curse" of being nearly unplayable due to a number of small, but obnoxious UI and gameplay decisions -- I distinctly remember buying one of the expansions just because it made the journal usable).
posted by schmod at 1:18 PM on October 23, 2014


Re, TA and physics: Which is probably why even the "recommended" specs were a total fantasy. It called for a PII 350 and 128MB recommended, and the game had a tendency to crawl on my Athlon--which was, I think, 700MHz or 750--if battles got even a little big. I cannot even imagine trying to play it on the min spec system, which was a 100MHz Pentium with 32MB of RAM. Jesus.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:20 PM on October 23, 2014


In Total Annihilation? I don't think it used hit percentages. I think it used actual game physics calculations to determine the ballistic trajectory of projectiles and if a unit occupied the space the projectile passed through, it got it.

You see. You just made that more impressive.
posted by pan at 1:21 PM on October 23, 2014


Oh Myth II... Oh Blade Runner. My forgotten 90s are flooding back to me.
posted by ikahime at 1:23 PM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh man. Freespace 2. What a damn good game. The final level is easily the most memorable scene from any video game that I've played.

I've probably re-played FS2 more times than any other game (except perhaps for Final Fantasy VI). It's that good, and nothing has even come close to recreating the scale or the story.

Also glad to see Escape Velocity on there.... A decidedly "different" kind of space sim, which to my knowledge, has never been successfully replicated. I don't think that any other game can feel so immersive, vast, detailed, and expansive, while being decidedly "lo-fi".
posted by schmod at 1:41 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


An alternative title for this thread: "Interplay had a really good run for a while..."
posted by schmod at 1:42 PM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


I have been waiting for another RTS game with scale and quality of of Total Annihilation. I might need to come to the realization that TA and SupCom might be all there will ever be for me.
posted by srboisvert at 1:53 PM on October 23, 2014


Master of Orion might legitimately be responsible for my current life.

Wing Commander II was the game that did it for me. Learning how to get extended memory and soundblaster working on a 386 is not far from what I'm doing every day as a linux sys admin.
posted by empath at 2:08 PM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


I bought something like three different versions of HoMM about a year ago from GOG, and I couldn't get through a game in any of them without the game crashing. Ye Gods!

Meanwhile, Yes, Master of Orion FTW! (Pulse Phasor is the best weapon! Proton Torpedoes are second!)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:08 PM on October 23, 2014


They missed TRACON 2, which… You should make sure your heart is healthy enough to play TRACON 2 before trying.

Also, what was that starship simulator that had the LCARS style interface? Came out in the early '90s? I liked that game.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:09 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Re, TA and physics: Which is probably why even the "recommended" specs were a total fantasy. It called for a PII 350 and 128MB recommended, and the game had a tendency to crawl on my Athlon--which was, I think, 700MHz or 750--if battles got even a little big. I cannot even imagine trying to play it on the min spec system, which was a 100MHz Pentium with 32MB of RAM. Jesus.

The first system i played it on was a 733mhz celeron with i believe, 64mb of ram.

It actually ran ok, but it turned in to an absolute slideshow as soon as more than a couple units started firing their weapons. Especially if EMGs or lots of bombs were involved. One of my favorite strategies was basically just sheltering in place with a huge wall of missile towers all around my base, and building a ton of tech 1 aircraft plants and a solid wall of bombers(after making 15-20 fighters and setting them on a patrol loop of my base). So i'd send all 100 or whatever bombers to an enemy base i had scoped out, and set them to bomb a nuclear reactor or something in the base. They'd all fly in, enemy units would start firing and it would drop to like 10fps.

Then my bombers would start bombing, and it would drop to like... 0.3fps, and the CPU fan on my wimpy laptop would spin up to max speed with searing hot air blasting out.

A couple years later i upgraded to a p4 with half a gig of ram, an nvidia 6600gt, etc. properly huge battles, especially with a raised unit limit, STILL chugged. It wasn't really until the late core2duo/early core i era that i finally had a system which could play even the biggest battles smoothly. If you're on a really big map like the seven islands one with 3-4 players and they all have 500 units, and everyone runs in to eachother in the center of the map? I don't know if it's something a modern game could avoid with better optimizations or multithreading or something, or if there was just a lot more physics stuff than the average game going on... but yea. Maybe this is the kind of thing PhysX would do.


It's also funny to think that a crappy laptop with a terrible screen cost $1299 in 2001, and that buys a seriously high end machine now. One that could play the modern equivalent of games like this on absolutely max settings even.
posted by emptythought at 2:21 PM on October 23, 2014


Not a big gamer, but Homeworld was a fantastic strategy game. Would have been epic if you had full 360 orientation without the stops--reset the attack plane.
posted by xtian at 2:24 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


They missed TRACON 2, which… You should make sure your heart is healthy enough to play TRACON 2 before trying.

The more things change, eh?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 2:26 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


And seriously, multiplayer TA was a fucking blast.

Oh, yes it was. I had some great bonding experiences with my son playing many hours of that game.
posted by octothorpe at 2:39 PM on October 23, 2014


Populous is one of the first games I bought with my own allowance.
posted by Pendragon at 2:51 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh, wow: Heroes of Might and Magic 3! I may need to go grab this, since the most recent game in the series has thoroughly failed to scratch my HOMM itch.

Not that Might and Magic Heroes VI isn't a good game, it's just that it's strapped to the Ubisoft front-end, which means that whenever I want to play it (I generally do long sessions once every few months) I usually have to restart the game five or six times so that it can properly download, at glacial speed, the proper patches from Ubi's servers; and you can't just play an unpatched copy, either, because it refuses to retrieve your saves from the cloud unless you have the most recent version. Lately, I haven't bothered loading it.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:52 PM on October 23, 2014


ob1quixote: Also, what was that starship simulator that had the LCARS style interface? Came out in the early '90s? I liked that game.
It was Rules of Engagement. It was more fun than it looks because it was kind of realistic. You don't get more than what you could see through a telescope.

P.S. No I didn't scroll through the likely years one by one. Why do you ask?
posted by ob1quixote at 2:55 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am so happy to see Twinsen's Odyssey (LBA2) on here. I feel like I was the only one who ever played this game growing up. Trying to explain it to people, I was always met with blank, skeptical stares.

I loved that game so hard. The instant I saw it mentioned the soundtrack started up in my head.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:02 PM on October 23, 2014


Happy to see 'Freddy Pharkas, Frontier Pharmacist' get some love.

What a great game. Basically the 'Raising Arizona' of point and click adventures.
posted by gnutron at 3:14 PM on October 23, 2014


All I remember is that I spent a bunch of money on a Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback Pro just to play Descents 1, 2 and 3, and it was money well spent. I miss it sometimes, but I don't even have a desk to put it on anymore.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:16 PM on October 23, 2014


Elementary Penguin: All I remember is that I spent a bunch of money on a Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback Pro just to play Descents 1, 2 and 3, and it was money well spent. I miss it sometimes, but I don't even have a desk to put it on anymore.

Even if you did, you wouldn't be able to use it. Gameport support has been dropped and then set on fire by modern operating systems. Plus the Sidewinder Force Feedback Pro used the gameport in a very complicated way, so things like USB gameports don't work with it.

I have one and I really wish I could use it. But I've given up on that particular battle.
posted by Mitrovarr at 3:26 PM on October 23, 2014


The most amazing thing about Total Annihilation to me was how when you destroyed an enemy tank, the wreckage stayed on the battlefield and obstructed line of sight. Yes this game used true LOS calculations and true projectile ballistics for hit calculations.

So as the battle raged on, visibility gets worse and worse as the battlefield becomes littered with wreckage, and indirect fire attacks become more effective - you can lob some projectiles over the dead metal hulks of the tank wreckage, but direct projectile fire or lasers can't.

And then the winner of the battle gets to "clean up" and salvage the wrecks for precious metal.

One of the best things was how, say, the solar panels were really fragile but if they came under attack they could close up, then only open later (like a flower) when it was safe. Stuff that exploded threw debris around, with distance proportional to the force of the explosion, and a shower of debris could scatter across your solar farm and cause some of the panels to close up. And then your power level would drop, slowing production, etc.

Yeah, nothing ever made so far has surpassed what Total Annihilation was. Starcraft 2 is nothing compared to TA.
posted by xdvesper at 3:40 PM on October 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


Oh man Populous...my brother and I played this many, many times. Bulk up and prepare for Armageddon, because it's happening.

I can't believe how many of these games I actually had but didn't quite get in to for various reasons (and I'm old, spent my youth tinkering with DOS and computers that had no RAM).

RAM....you mean ROM? Fire up the 2400bps and check Prodigy.
posted by GreyboxHero at 3:41 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am so happy to see Twinsen's Odyssey (LBA2) on here. I feel like I was the only one who ever played this game growing up.

Yes! I remember playing it but getting stuck right in the last bit, before you find the final ball upgrade. Even with internet walkthroughs, 3rd-grade me apparently wasn't smart enough to figure it out. I went back a few years later and waltzed right through with my improved language skills. I replayed last spring and had a great time.

"I'm gonna take you out—and I don't mean for pizza!"
posted by Maecenas at 3:45 PM on October 23, 2014


To all the LBA 2 fans, don't miss the original, which was recently released for your mobile. (Yes, the music is just as good.)

Ultima -- I got the discs for Ultima VI at a garage sale having never heard of the game before and wandered around that amazing world for so many hours--somehow missing the spell to unlock magically-locked doors. Ultima VII was amazing (they forgot Serpent Isle, though) and VIII was weird but I have to agree with naju that it hasn't earned its reputation. IX was pretty terrible, of course, but I still loved exploring Britannia in 3d.

I never got into Ultima Underworld but man did I love System Shock... to this day I still think the 360-view (basically giving yourself rear-view mirrors) was the greatest player enhancement. Realizing that no, you are never going to meet another NPC that is alive sure was tough, though.

Jazz Jackrabbit 2 -- definitely logged more hours into that multiplayer than any other game. (and if you did too, you probably played some of the levels I made)

And yes, all the amazing shareware. They have Commander Keen, of course, but missed some other great platformers: Monster Bash, Cosmo's Cosmic Adventure.

The original Warlords is also one of my favorites. Fairly simple, but so well designed. I played the 40-turn demo for Mac... so many times.
posted by ropeladder at 3:46 PM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Was Krondor the one where you could use your bard skill to play songs for money, and depending on how much you sucked (or how drunk you were), the game's rendition of the song would range from perfect to mediocre to catastrophically bad? What a fun game mechanic.
posted by hyperbolic at 3:52 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


To all the LBA 2 fans, don't miss the original, which was recently released for your mobile. (Yes, the music is just as good.)

Sensational! Are there other old school games that have been re-released on mobile platforms?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:54 PM on October 23, 2014


red baron? - jack nichlaus golf? - and what about the chessmaster series? - also completely lacking in old school wargames

i have been fighting the urge to play master of orion again ...
posted by pyramid termite at 4:12 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


> All I remember is that I spent a bunch of money on a Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback Pro just to play Descents 1, 2 and 3, and it was money well spent.

Oh man, I remember playing Crimson Skies and MW3 with one of those. The CHUNGA-CHUNGA-CHUNGA of heavy weapons fire was SO AWESOME!

Used to have an ancient Sound Blaster card installed in my desktop PC just for the gameport. Sadly, the joystick broke a few years ago...
posted by archagon at 4:39 PM on October 23, 2014


In related news, 3D Realms is back??? It looks like it's owned by Interceptor Entertainment now, and Rise of the Triad 2013 was very much in the spirit of those old games, so I hope they do something interesting with it.

<3 that banner.
posted by archagon at 5:19 PM on October 23, 2014


No Battlecruiser 3000AD?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:38 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wow, everyone hit on the nostalgia already in this thread. I have very little to say other than that I grew up playing Command & Conquer, Descent, Marathon, Jazz Jackrabbit, Total Annihilation, and so many other precious games. I don't typically wish to relive much of my past but I'd love to go back in time and feel the enjoyment I got from getting a new game at a CompUSA or the like, reading the manual over and over again while my parents drove me home.
posted by gucci mane at 8:42 PM on October 23, 2014


If you're here, you would massively enjoy the novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I particularly recommend the audiobook reading by Will Wheaton.
posted by neuron at 8:48 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't typically wish to relive much of my past but I'd love to go back in time and feel the enjoyment I got from getting a new game at a CompUSA or the like, reading the manual over and over again while my parents drove me home.

I absolutely wish I still had the physical paper map that came with Quest For Glory 2. I'd frame that thing and hang it on my wall (since you can just google it now).

There'd be an extra layer to it now that I find amusing though I didn't way back when: I didn't understand at the time because I was kinda too young, but it was a common practice with that era of games to use the manual and stuff as a kind of copy protection. I remember more blatant examples of this (eg: "type in the 20th word on the 4th page of the manual") but some of them were worked into the game itself.

Here's how QFG2's worked: The game starts with you having freshly arrived in a city that was mentioned a couple times tangentially in the first game. You're sporting some cool new clothes, but you're still hauling around all your foreign currency. So before you can do pretty much anything at all, you have to go visit the city's money changer. The city you're in is pretty sizable (or so it felt at the time) and is basically a maze. The money changer is tucked in a very obscure place that you could wander randomly looking for for ages and not find on your own. With the map it's easy, of course. A merchant outside the inn you're staying at says he has a magic map as you leave the inn until you buy it from him. Once you've exchanged your money, you can buy said map quite cheaply and it'll let you teleport around the city just by clicking on a location.

But kid me thought that map was cool despite not being magic. It was printed on nice paper had some design touches in keeping with the game's middle eastern-style setting. I'd expect adult me would probably think warm, fuzzy things when I look at it.

Nostalgic for analog copy protection, y'all.
posted by sparkletone at 9:02 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also, what was that starship simulator that had the LCARS style interface? Came out in the early '90s? I liked that game.

Rules of Engagement, which had a great interface to Breach, so when you disabled an enemy ship you could board it and fight floor to floor with your Space Marine squad. A great mechanic (interlocking games at different scales) - I wonder why it isn't more popular.

Also, one of the cooler games (X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter) benefited from being released during the Star Wars interregnum.

Most of the thrill for me and my friends was (1) network! and (2) they had all the sounds right, which triggered all those delicious hindbrain memories of our first encounter with the movies as children and all of those pretend-space-fights we had with the X-Wing and TIE fighter models and toys.

Can't go back to that feeling of imagination reawakened and dreams revisited.
posted by lon_star at 11:16 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


No Battlecruiser 3000AD?

Go home Derek, you're drunk.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:59 PM on October 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


I pretty much just clicked on the thread to make sure Planescape was on the list. I remember the first time I played it, before spoilers on the Internet were such a Thing, and so much in there absolutely floored me. I still quote it routinely, and I don't think any of my friends have been spared a recounting of Morte's tale when you talk to Yves.

I recently looked to see if there was a Let's Play of it, and it turns out even the folks there couldn't bear to play through on evil, (these being the same people who turned Animal Crossing into a truly awesome nightmare).

... I guess what I'm saying is, carry on.

*takes some notes about stuff on the list he missed*
posted by mordax at 12:14 AM on October 24, 2014


For anybody who has been spreading the love for Total Annihilation, y'all are aware of spiritual successor Planetary Annihilation, yes?

TA was the first videogame that I was consciously anticipating, the first to have internet hype I was aware off, back in the halcyon days of comp.sys.ibm-pc.games.strategic,downloading all the little animated 3-d models of the various tanks and robots before the game came out and wondering what it would be like.

That 1996-2000 era of gaming was a hell of a highpoint in strategic games.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:24 AM on October 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


lon_star: Can't go back to that feeling of imagination reawakened and dreams revisited.
You say that. I got DOSBOX working on the Chromebook and just had the hair on the back of my neck stand up when I heard the Rules of Engagement theme. You can't be the same you from 25 years ago, but those feelings don't have to be gone forever.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:33 AM on October 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've been playing Transport Tycoon Deluxe almost continuously since 1996.
posted by PenDevil at 1:19 AM on October 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


O man, the comments about the manuals really brought me back. Even the original boxed edition of starcraft had an amazing manual with awesome illustrations of all the units and tons of descriptions of them/the story/other stuff about the fiction and fictional tech specs of things. And that was a relatively light manual and general documentation for a game to come with. I remember games, not even special edition ones that came with huge tech books or in depth books describing the history of the whole game universe and outlining the entire situation that the game takes place in at the "current time". Some games came with freaking hardbound books.

I don't remember exactly when that died, but i remember only getting that kind of stuff used at half price books, and those types of games only really being around until barely after 2000. Once i got a pentium 4 and played half life 2 that era was pretty much 100% dead.

xtian: Not a big gamer, but Homeworld was a fantastic strategy game. Would have been epic if you had full 360 orientation without the stops--reset the attack plane.

This game, imo, was pretty much TA levels of ahead of its time. My dad loved to watch the evolution of computer games, and always commented on how stuff like starfleet command bugged him because it was on a 2d plane for no good reason. As soon as i showed him the quasi-unlimited "cube" levels with stuff on different planes he totally flipped out. It didn't have all the physics stuff of TA, but it had more than a bit of really cool physics stuff going on with both ship motion and the weapons fire, and it had as much freedom vertically as most games had horizontally!

Also, the soundtrack, cut scenes, and art style was just amazing. And it was also another game that had totally bonkers modding and online play.

I swear, very little now matches that standard of ridiculous visual/audio design quality. There's a few things that are utterly gorgeous like Destiny, but they end up being conceptually vapid.

xdvesper: The most amazing thing about Total Annihilation to me was how when you destroyed an enemy tank, the wreckage stayed on the battlefield and obstructed line of sight. Yes this game used true LOS calculations and true projectile ballistics for hit calculations.

So as the battle raged on, visibility gets worse and worse as the battlefield becomes littered with wreckage, and indirect fire attacks become more effective - you can lob some projectiles over the dead metal hulks of the tank wreckage, but direct projectile fire or lasers can't.


Not to mention, and i haven't played another game like this really... if you had a fairly good understanding of how a unit fired, especially if it was a turret like one of the plasma cannons(which were basically heavy gun emplacements), you could force it to aim at the ground ahead of itself closer than it could fire, which would cause it to try and lob shots mortar style. If you timed this out right, you could get a unit that normally direct-fired to fire in an extreme arc over things. Units, wreckage, hills, you name it. You had to have good line of sight, and be ready for some trial and error, but it worked.

I remember walling a bunch of enemies into a canyon with wreckage, then shooting OVER one side of the canyon this way. My adolescent glee at watching them get blasted to pieces when there was nothing they could do to retaliate was amazing. Once i figured this out, i'd try it all the time. It usually only worked with stationary units, but missiles were valid until some predefined range that varied from unit to unit when they presumably ran out of fuel, and projectiles were valid until they hit something("sir isaac newton is the most deadly man in space!"). Spotting a huge naval fleet just chilling out in the ocean, and trial-and-error raining fire down upon them this way to the point that they couldn't even figure out which direction to move to get away from it was amazing.

Entire bases would be planned around your own strategy for egress, while channeling the enemy in to one route of ingress that would leave them completely walled off by their own wreckage. You'd basically make a funnel of doom in which they could only get through a few at a time where they couldn't really roll through anything your wall of defensive weapons couldn't steamroll. Some maps you couldn't really do this on, but the ones you could quickly got hilarious.

Another thing was that this made it one of the few games where high ground/low ground REALLY mattered. It wasn't just like some other games where it's like "oh if you have the high ground you do a bit more damage and have a higher hit percentage, and if you're shooting up from low ground you're way more likely to miss". You could literally get yourself in a position where you could shoot them, and because of trees or wreckage or terrain they couldn't shoot back. I remember using transport planes or construction planes to either drop in or build units in places where you needed planes or advanced units to actually even have a chance at hitting them. This also meant that in some situations physically taller units had an advantage. It also made stuff like ballistic missile units really powerful in certain situations(it was often possible to position yourself behind a hill where you could shoot them, but they couldn't shoot you. You could get somewhere where they had used terrain as a wall of their base and just start fucking up units deep inside their base that had no real defense until they got their own ballistic missile units, or came out to actually fight you at which point you'd seen them coming and long since run away... and if they chase you, they run right back to your wall of defenses)

And on your point about the solar panels folding up, that was just a bigger part of how interesting the entire resource system worked. It wasn't like any other game where you're just mining X ore and Y gas or whatever, you have to actually handle generating power and mining metal in real time. Everything you're building or operating is JIT. You're basically running a power grid, and actively supplying your factories with minerals. Need more energy to fire a weapons system that draws a ton of peak power? shut down your mining facilities, or energy to metal converters, or all manner of other things to free up power draw. Not to mention you could build capacitor banks, and metal storage tanks, etc. Entire bases would be constructed around firing specific weapons, or having enough constant energy+metal to manufacture X number of units in Y factories at a time.

Another interesting thing i never really saw pop up in another game is how any unit can assist any other unit or factory in building things. And each unit has different build "rates" depending on how advanced it is. However, each unit takes power to operate and adds to the drain of building whatever the first unit/factory was building based on whatever rate it adds to it. So if you had enough construction units, and they could all find a good position to assist from, you could pop out units that would usually take several minutes to build in seconds... but at a massive resource drain. Whole bases were also constructed around strategies of how to do this cleverly. You'd end up seeing a factory with 10 construction planes circling around it, but that was horribly frightening because you knew it could pop out 20 units in 10 seconds.

It was way more complicated and interesting than starcraft where it's like "oh i have two command centers with X number of SCVs mining" or whatever. Especially since anyone could set up a mining station, or solar panel, or even nuclear reactor anywhere. There were even underwater and floating versions of all that.(and tidal generators, and geothermal generators, and...).

If starcraft is like chess, it felt like something much different. There wasn't really that thing where both SC and chess feel like there's a number of stock opening moves people memorize, or some "optimum" way to play. Not that interesting emergent stuff doesn't regularly come out of SC, but there were just so many ways to do anything in TA. Even after playing it for years i always felt like i was discovering new strategies all the time. Yea, there were tried and true ways to win, especially against someone who wasn't that experienced... but you'd just see weird stuff all the time.


Fuck, i could go on about that game for hours. It was just... smart. It made you realize how much other games simplify stuff. Even just thinks like units with turrets being physically limited to the range of motion of the turret in how they could fire, or being unable to fire because they'd damage themselves at that angle were awesome to watch. Even when it was really frustrating and you were going THE FU... NO YOU STUPID THING!

I mean, even just simple little things like stealth planes that were fast enough to SR-71 their way away from most ground to air and air to air missiles was super satisfying. The only nit i could really pick was all the "laser" weapons being sort of really fast projectiles that followed a flat arc. Seeing a plane fly side to side while a tower or unit fires lasers at it that keep missing because they take a second to get to it was always -_-. Especially since there weirdly were some proper "beam" weapons like the lightning canons.

I still haven't had the heard to try out planetary annihilation. The trailer looks cool, but i'm really super afraid it'll be like a cargo-cult pantomime of a lot of the things that appeared to be cool about TA without really understanding the deep things that made it truly interesting and made jaw dropping emergent stuff and weird strategies work. I probably should just do it, though.
posted by emptythought at 3:35 AM on October 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


One of the best things in TA, if you could pull it off, was to pick up the enemy Commander with one of your transports while he was out building metal extractors or something. Then you fly him into the enemy base. The air defense would shoot at your transport, and when they downed it the Commander would go up like the fourth of July, making a nice hole in their defenses for your bombers to swoop through.

I still have the Homeworld manual tucked away somewhere.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 4:54 AM on October 24, 2014


Needs more Adventures of Cuddy and Buddy.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:55 AM on October 24, 2014


So did anyone play Supreme Commander, which was Chris Taylor's sort of sequel to TA?
posted by octothorpe at 5:14 AM on October 24, 2014


I played a ton of Forged Alliance, which was the standalone expansion. It was pretty great; a bit more focused than TA, although I rarely played base TA, instead pouring tons of play into TAUIP. I did really like the factory/unit upgrading.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 6:00 AM on October 24, 2014


schmod:
Also, seeing Morrowind on this list makes me feel old, and realize that I might finally have a PC that can adequately run it (although I specifically remember it being victim to the "Bethesda curse" of being nearly unplayable due to a number of small, but obnoxious UI and gameplay decisions -- I distinctly remember buying one of the expansions just because it made the journal usable).
You may have a PC capable of playing it as is, but if you want to fix tons of bugs, make the game more playable and look prettier than Skyrim then you want the Morrowind Overhaul. You know, so that 12 year old game can have the same hardware requirements as Crysis.
posted by charred husk at 7:45 AM on October 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Arcanum. Oh god, Arcanum. It was the first, and still one of the few, games to ever make me feel like my choices had an actual effect on the game. Your conversation options varied depending on your intelligence, your choices of race, of gender, of technology and/or magic, of good or evil. It was such fun even doing just the starting areas with a wide variety of characters.

Inevitably, games revert to software as you master the tricks or parts repeat often enough. They lose that magic of possibility offered in the world created in them, as enjoyment slowly becomes more mechanical and the secrets all get revealed - the hidden chest is here, choose options 1,3,4 to get past the bouncer, the trick to that boss is the eyes. Many games don't even start with that sense.

For me, Arcanum was glorious in the possibilities it offered, and was a terrific world to boot. It might not be the best game, especially with bugs, but it's definitely one of my most treasured gaming memories.
posted by gadge emeritus at 10:13 AM on October 24, 2014


Jumping in on the TA lovewagon:

Total Annihilation is one of my all-time favourite games. I had just gotten a job at Ubisoft and a group of us used to play at lunch and after work, like all the time! Two stories:

1- So three of us start a game on a four-player map, meaning there is a corner of the map free for the taking. I have the brilliant idea to send my commander there right after building my first factory. As the commander is walking up the mountain I see that my opponent had the same idea as me and it is a commander vs commander fight on top of the hill. As the commanders are circling each other, in reflex I start pressing 'D' on every shot (firing the D-gun, a disintegrator beam), my first few shots miss and I hear from across the room the other player (Kyle) shouting out "what are you doing!!??" What I am doing, Kyle, is killing your commander... finally I hit with the D-gun and his commander explodes, taking mine out with it (in my glee at attacking the other commander I somehow forgot about the HUGE explosion of their power packs). The whole screen shook as an earthquake caused by the demise of two commanders unleashed an earthquake across the map, resonating in time with the shout of despair coming from Kyle's mouth. As Kyle raced to my desk to cuss me out, the hilarity of it all had me in cramps laughing the whole time. The third player, Bruno, had an easy win that day. Oh man, I still smile at the memory.

2- Another time a group of programmers (who worked at the complete other end of the building) found out about our TA jams and challenged us to a match, boastfull of their superior gaming skills. So Bruno and I stayed after work one night and the match was on! After about 3 hrs of back and forth (remember when MP games lasted that long? yes I am looking at you Alterac Valley circa 2005) I had to go, so Bruno and I made a plan. I put all my plane factories (and I had a lot) on infinite bomber production and set them on a loop in the far corner of the map, away from prying eyes. Then I set my 3 nuke plants to continually launch nukes at the other team's base (nukes were not terribly effective because nuke defense was a high priority build), and lastly I stealthed my commander into their base (where he was finally spotted and killed but did some serious damage). As I left for home, my computer was on and Bruno was left as the sole player commanding two forces on two different computers. Next morning I come in to work early and Bruno fills me in: after I left he did an all-out assault with his forces as a distraction, grabbed my two-hundred or so bombers and sent them at the enemy base. As the bombers tore a swath through the enemy they finally took out the last nuke defense tower and my three silos started raining glorious nuclear death upon the enemy. Finally, 30 minutes later it was all over, team uber-programmers had nothing left on the board save a few ships and we humble-designers took the prize (precious bragging rights!).

Ah, those were the days!!
posted by Vindaloo at 2:04 PM on October 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


For me, Arcanum was glorious in the possibilities it offered, and was a terrific world to boot.

Arcanum was pretty awesome. I never did finish it. Picked it up on GOG though, so... one of these days. (I didn't like the engine was well as the old Infinity one, but the atmosphere was beautiful.)
posted by mordax at 2:45 PM on October 24, 2014


title="GOG has a strategy game sale running this weekend."

Willl probably go for the TA set, since most comments seemed to be pretty positive.
posted by pjmoy at 12:53 AM on October 25, 2014


Does anybody know where I can get copies (or scans) of the old UK Future Publishing titles PC Format and PC Gamer from the early to mid 90s? Those were the best magazines ever.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:18 PM on October 26, 2014


Spent a few hours playing some skirmishes in TA this weekend. Amazing how well I remembered some of those maps after about fifteen years. I'm pretty rusty though, stupidly I created a Moho Maker when I thought that I was making an extractor and then spent the next ten minutes trying to figure out what was eating up all my energy.
posted by octothorpe at 7:03 AM on October 27, 2014


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