X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter 2 or GTFO
July 30, 2019 2:34 PM   Subscribe

Shenmue 3, Evil Genius 2, Mechwarrior 5, Star Control: Origins and Ghosts of the Precursors – sequels to beloved videogames, one and all. But Rock Paper Shotgun asks: Why are so many old games coming back? Is it really just money and nostalgia?
posted by adrianhon (35 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
I spent so much time playing Mechwarrior 4 and its expansions.
Please, please, please let me have a (GOOD) 5th title in the series.

My RAC-Boat Hauptman craves another chance to core-out enemy cockpits and piss-off the opposing team.
posted by FleetMind at 2:50 PM on July 30, 2019 [3 favorites]


> Is it really just money and nostalgia?

Just money, really. Nostalgia is merely the drug that causes buyers to hand over the money.

The better question is probably why it seems we're more nostalgic for the past, which may have something to do with how bleak the present is for so many. Rock Paper Shotgun is unlikely to cite things like the global trend toward fascism or irreversible climate change, because that's not their beat, but if you want to understand why people are seeking refuge in the past, you do need to zoom out a bit and look past gaming.

Can't forget the obligatory Onion link: U.S. Dept. Of Retro Warns: 'We May Be Running Out Of Past'
posted by tonycpsu at 2:51 PM on July 30, 2019 [18 favorites]


I tried to play a mainline Pokemon game, a couple years ago. The conclusion I came to was that I don't miss playing Pokemon - I miss being 11 years old.
posted by bring a tuba to a knife fight at 3:03 PM on July 30, 2019 [42 favorites]


Not quite a remake or a sequel, but I am very excited for Rebel Galaxy Outlaw, a game that claims to "draw heavily" from my beloved Wing Commander: Privateer. I want a new arcade space combat game in my life.
posted by backseatpilot at 3:06 PM on July 30, 2019 [9 favorites]


Then there are those games that should have had sequels but didn't, like Stunt Island.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 4:05 PM on July 30, 2019 [6 favorites]


I could with a remake of Rogue Squadron, myself.
posted by Caxton1476 at 4:06 PM on July 30, 2019 [2 favorites]


Argh, X-Wing was such a sweet game. I even bought a fancy joystick with extra buttons so I could fully enjoy it.
posted by grumpybear69 at 4:44 PM on July 30, 2019 [15 favorites]


I'm here for whatever societal collapse gets me Evil Genius 2
posted by zerolives at 4:46 PM on July 30, 2019 [1 favorite]


Just money, really. Nostalgia is merely the drug that causes buyers to hand over the money.

It's also lack of appetite for risk in a saturated market. You can see this in movies too, name 3 2019 movies that aren't sequels. Producers/developers that need to deliver profits know that a sequel to a successful proven franchise is a much better bet than gambling on a completely new concept or IP, especially when you're talking about a several million dollar AAA budget competing against a world of 1,000 indy games on Steam Greenlight, not all of which are complete garbage, some are actually good.
posted by T.D. Strange at 5:06 PM on July 30, 2019 [6 favorites]


> I want a new arcade space combat game in my life.

Everspace may be worth a look if you haven't given it a shot yet.


Having long-lived franchises with major gaps isn't exactly a new thing in the video gaming industry. There are two reasons that come to mind as to why some of the gaps are much greater than others:

- Intellectual property ownership / disagreements / changes of ownership
- Stalled / failed development, often tied to the first reason

I know that all of the above have been issues with the star control series and the mechwarrior series for sure, as well as a slew of other games I can think of that have had these large gaps.

Some of the best games I've played in the past couple of years (and am playing at present) have been part of franchises that have existed for around 30 years now. Some of the games in these series are great, some are considered duds, most have been criticized for beating a dead horse whenever a new entry is announced. The only reason that many of these haven't shared that and seem to be coming out of nowhere is because they are no longer stuck in development hell or rights litigation, and this seems hardly unique to the video gaming industry, or new within it. The real fun part is seeing how well they actually age - like, will future Star Control games have the Syreen in them as we know them from prior games, or will that be something kept in and treated in the same manner that aged about as well as Duke Nukems casual misogyny and one liners?

Finally, I want to remind everyone that while some of us remember Shenmue for an unprecedented degree of interactivity and asking everyone in town where you can find some sailors, it is ultimately the series that brought the quick time event (AKA press X to not die) into our world.

With all that, I'm going to head back into a 29 year old strategy franchise that recently added tea simulations and gardening activities as new mechanisms.
posted by MysticMCJ at 5:06 PM on July 30, 2019 [2 favorites]


Three reasons I now exclusively buy games via GOG rather than Steam:

1) DRM-free
2) cheap
3) playable on my decent-but-not-great laptop

Really, it boils down to lots of cheap, accessible, quality content. And I don't have to worry about whether my hardware can handle it!
posted by scruffy-looking nerfherder at 7:24 PM on July 30, 2019 [3 favorites]


Everspace may be worth a look if you haven't given it a shot yet.

Also I'll give a shout-out to House of the Dying Sun here. (Which you may know as "Enemy Starfighter". The name it released under is a lot more evocative, but I think changing names shortly before release hurt its profile quite a lot.)

I've been so disappointed that the space game renaissance has so far mostly resulted in rudderless everything-games like Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen. It's a weird phenomenon where everyone decided to forget that the space games people are actually nostalgic for -- which is to say X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter and the first several Wing Commanders -- were based around hand-crafted campaigns instead of being directionless Elite-likes.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:20 PM on July 30, 2019 [6 favorites]


As far as Mechwarrior goes there is Mechwarrior: Living Legends, a standalone mod that you can download and play right now for free. It's still being actively developed; in fact last Friday a new patch dropped with two new mechs (Commando and Locust IIC). There's enough players to get good games going most nights of the week too, mostly in a territory capture, Battlefield-style mode. Here's a trailer from 7 years ago, and here's some current gameplay from a couple months back. Official site. Wiki.

I've been really into it these past couple years, coming from only having played MW4 before, but what's really neat about it is that you don't only have mechs, you can play as armor, hovercraft, vtols, aerospace fighters, self-propelled artillery and battle armor. Some really cool combined arms stuff can happen with enough organization. Also, unlike Mechwarrior Online the assets are balanced within costs/tiers so you won't be taking down an Atlas with a Cougar, but also light units will always be useful for being fast cappers and cheap scouts. It's also been fun to get into Battletech lore and be able to drive the things I'm reading about.

PM me if you want to play together!
posted by coolname at 11:00 PM on July 30, 2019 [5 favorites]


I don't have a PlayStation 4, or any current game system, and haven't planned on getting one but Shenmue 3 and Death Stranding are awfully tempting.

Not getting Silent Hills is one of life's great disappointments.
posted by bongo_x at 1:01 AM on July 31, 2019


Oh my god, Stunt Island! I forgot about that. I guess Trackmania has some similarities but Stunt Island had such fantastic theming.
posted by adrianhon at 1:37 AM on July 31, 2019


The headline inspired a mighty NEED in me for a TIE Fighter 2 with full story mode.

There is a decided dearth of great space fighter arcade sims.
posted by Paladin1138 at 3:57 AM on July 31, 2019 [6 favorites]


Video games are an iterative genre, so that new games are very closely related to previous works. New gaming metaphors come along very rarely, so almost all games are derivative in some way. The question here is not quite "why are these old games coming back?" but rather "Why did this game genre die out in the first place?"

I mean, arcade space shooters are probably not everybody's cup of tea, but in the modern era where niche gaming cultures keep becoming breakout mainstream hits, why am I still waiting for a new X-Wing Vs. Tie Fighter?

(With optional VR too plz thnx k bye )
posted by Eleven at 3:57 AM on July 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


Eleven: There was a free VR add-on for Star Wars Battlefront - just a single, specially designed mission. and it was AMAZING.
posted by Paladin1138 at 4:11 AM on July 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


I mean, yeah – it's money and nostalgia. Studios produce sequels and remakes because the market rewards it. And the market rewards it because the gamers who grew up with the original titles are now adults with disposable income, and the real world sucks right now – so the promise of escaping to a simpler time is appealing.

And, as the article mentions – part of it (for me, anyway) is a preference for the old-school release model, where you pay once, receive a finished game, and that's it. I never made the jump to microtransactions (or even subscriptions – I never got into MMOs). I've never played a game that features "lootboxes" (and I only have a vague idea of what they even are). I've bought early access games, and I've played games which occasionally get new "content" in the form of periodic updates – but it sounds like AAA games (which I mostly don't play) have gone completely overboard with the new-content treadmill (rather than, say, making the fundamental game mechanics interesting). All of that sounds unappealing to me.

I've never bought a "remastered" game, though – I've never seen a release that offers what I want out a remaster. Which is this: Make it dead simple to install on modern hardware and OSs. Fix bugs. Make the UI and controls cleaner and more intuitive – clunky UI is the main thing that makes old games difficult to enjoy. Make cutscenes, etc. skippable – old games assume a degree of patience that I just don't have anymore. If the original game lacked features such as quicksave/autosave, controller support, etc., add them. (And include an option which allows me to restore all of this to the original behavior.)

Once all of that is done, then you can consider updating the graphics, etc. But, for Christ's sake, keep all of the game mechanics the same. And you don't even have to touch the graphics – sometimes the "crappy" old graphics are a big part of the heart of a game.

I would pay a princely sum for a faithful remaster of Thief 2 (which, for my money, is still the most perfect game ever made). Sure – give me sexy modern graphics, new missions, a smoother UI, etc. But keep all of the hitboxes, AI behavior, player movement, etc. exactly the same. All of that tuning was already perfected. Don't touch it.

Of course, I'm probably one of like five nerds who actually wants such a thing, so meh.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 4:29 AM on July 31, 2019 [6 favorites]


Of course, I'm probably one of like five nerds who actually wants such a thing, so meh.

Guess I'm one of the five because I've played the hell out of various remakes/reskins of System Shock 2 and would gladly do the same for Thief 2.

Signed, a nerd who is still bitter/emotionally scarred about Looking Glass shutting down.
posted by slimepuppy at 9:04 AM on July 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


I just replayed Thief 1 after ~20 years and frankly I'm not sure there's anything to remake, it's just so perfect. Hell, half the new FPSs these days are low-poly retro throwbacks anyway.

Also, I haven't played any yet but I gather there is a bunch of high quality fan content for thief around.
posted by ropeladder at 9:34 AM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


Call me nuts, but I think the older games in question (at least the ones I know, I am now so Old that some of them are just names to me) were fun and new iterations stand a chance of also...being fun...? Games are very very different now, but (a) not always for the better and (b) not always in ways that are necessary to have a good experience. One of my favorite recent games (out of admittedly a limited selection) is Invisible, Inc., which at least gives the impression of being a game that could've been made twenty years ago, tech-wise.

I don't disagree with the economic reasoning put forward by other commenters, mind you, but, shoot, I still play Civilization (when I trust myself to have it on my hard drive), which I started playing one iteration of in the early 90s.
posted by praemunire at 11:18 AM on July 31, 2019


Almost every post-mortem you ever read about a game has developers talking about game ideas they had to cut. Bad ideas get cut because they are bad but good ideas are usually cut because 1. You ran out of time and/or money, 2. You couldn't implement it well enough with the technology available.

If you have a series so successful that you keep doing sequels you probably churn through most of those ideas eventually. But most games ran out of sequels (or never had any) before they ran out of ideas.

So it makes plenty of sense that if down the road you can get more time, more money, and better technology you would want to go back and do some of the things you didn't get a chance to in previous versions of a game.
posted by straight at 11:41 AM on July 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


Nostalgia plays a big part, yes. But the semiotics of games (I think I'm using that term correctly) has improved so, so much. Even between the PS3 generation and the PS4 generation, much less between 1989 and 2019. It's not just that they get high-resolution updates. It's things like auto-save, or controls that maintain some consistency between games in a way they never, ever used to. So many games just aren't fun to play when you go back to them in 2019. The difficulty curve is outright broken. The controls and frame rate seem to only work if you've got the exact same Mhz processor as the developer - anything even one step faster or slower feels janky. Or they're from an era when game design was focused on getting you to feed more quarters to a machine, even if you were playing at home and owned the game outright.

I like not losing hours of gameplay if I forgot to save. I like not having to backtrack massively if I die. I like being able to turn on a game for the first time and know that the same buttons on my controller are going to be accept or not. But I still like the stories and concepts and universes of those old games I grew up with, and want to play more. I'm never going to play the original X-COM again. But I'm sure going to buy whatever Firaxis does with it next.
posted by thecjm at 12:11 PM on July 31, 2019 [5 favorites]


Touching on what thecjm said, it reminded me of another thing that constantly comes up when lamenting old games: The loss of manuals.

I mean, they were nice and all, and it was neat to have story and such fleshing out the game world (Blizzard manuals were the gold standard) but they largely existed because a game couldn't tell you the back-story in game, either due to budget or lack of graphics and needed to exist to teach you the game's obtuse controls, context or setting.

For the most part, stuff like FPS controls are agreed upon (WASD for moving, shift to sprint, mouse click 1 to fire...ect.) and the game can devote its time to telling you how to play in-game, teach you about the world in-game...ect.

We've come a long way.

I will say, I miss the "feelie" manuals from the adventure game days (again, only existed largely as fancy DRM) like the Intergalactic Inquirer from Space Quest 5 or the Time Machine hot-rod magazine from Space Quest 4.
posted by Snuffman at 1:53 PM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


I mean, arcade space shooters are probably not everybody's cup of tea, but in the modern era where niche gaming cultures keep becoming breakout mainstream hits, why am I still waiting for a new X-Wing Vs. Tie Fighter?

(With optional VR too plz thnx k bye )

When I read the headline, I thought, "I really want a new X-Wing/Tie Fighter game," but now that you mention VR I realize that I need it. (And echoing Paladin1138, Battlefront's VR mission is like having a theme park ride on your couch.)
posted by dances with hamsters at 2:14 PM on July 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


Also I'll give a shout-out to House of the Dying Sun here.
This in VR is the short, sharp, beautiful, brutal version of Tie Fighter I didn't know I wanted until I tried it. I don't really have the time to play through something like those old plot heavy space sims, but this scratched that itch for me with its 5 minute super-dense missions. No multiplayer though.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 2:46 PM on July 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


Nostalgia is going to make Blizzard a killing next quarter after WoW Classic lands next month. It's bizarre (but not really shocking) because no other MMORPG could do this successfully, let alone profit immensely.
posted by Brocktoon at 5:39 PM on July 31, 2019


The games I have for my Switch are, Mario Odyssey (sequel), Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu (remake of a game with tons of sequels), Civilization VI (sequel), Skyrim (sequel), and Just Dance 2019 (sequel). I had no idea there was a new Star Control out there but I think Endless Sky scratches that itch for me anyway.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 5:54 PM on July 31, 2019


It's bizarre (but not really shocking) because no other MMORPG could do this successfully, let alone profit immensely.

If anything, Blizzard is late to the game on this nostalgia wave. Their hand was forced by Everquest, basically, having massive success with their own classic servers. Well, Everquest and also the emulator community.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:01 PM on July 31, 2019


I think part of the reason certain kinds of arcade-sims went away was because joysticks went away. But now xbox gamepads are available. I've been able to use xbox gamepads --with some teething issues and difficulty -- on a number of older sims.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:33 PM on July 31, 2019


Eleven: There was a free VR add-on for Star Wars Battlefront - just a single, specially designed mission. and it was AMAZING.

Hm!, sounds like they could be testing the waters.

Here's my hope: the Benioff/Weiss trilogy involves lots of starfighter/capital-ship stuff—i.e., more than the sequel trilogy has—which permits (or is specifically included in order to facilitate) a renaissance of space sims. (And surround-sound.)
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 6:58 AM on August 1, 2019


Having recently discovered that there's a new version Steve Jackson Game's classic "Ogre" on Steam, I am now less-than-patiently awaiting a new version of Autoduel.

But I'll settle for an updated version of DeathTrack OH SHIT HOW DID I MISS THIS????
posted by hanov3r at 1:06 PM on August 1, 2019


Also, I haven't played any yet but I gather there is a bunch of high quality fan content for thief around.

There is. The fan community has produced an enormous body of fan missions over the last 21 years. They vary widely in quality, of course – but some of them are better than the original missions, and there are even a few multi-mission epics which are effectively new Thief games, with voice acting and everything.

The challenge is figuring out which combination of patches, mission loaders, custom script libraries, and other doodads you need to install/configure before you can play fan missions. Several such tools have been released over the years, and I always forget which ones are current/standard. It usually takes me a few hours to get a fresh install of Thief 2 configured correctly.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 12:27 PM on August 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


And, yeah – mission loaders are another thing that studios can add to make remasters appealing, without tampering with the game mechanics. Make it dead simple for players to create, share, and consume custom content. Put the mission loader right in the game, with screenshots and ratings and search functionality.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 12:31 PM on August 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


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