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A brief examination of those diversions
which keep Eric from getting anything done.

Current Freaky Game Obssesiveness

October, as you probably were not aware, was International Space Combat Simulation Month, or at least, it certainly seemed that way. There were a slew of space combat games released this month, but the two most important ones were Homeworld and Freespace 2. They were released at almost the same time, and I picked them both up almost instantly. FS2 is definitely cool--it's more of the same blastastic goodness as the original, with new ships and the option to play at a higher resolution (about freakin' time). Homeworld is amazing; it's a fully 3D RTS game that lets you play out gigantic space battles. It's got its flaws (including no way to speed up or slow down time, and no waypoints), but overall, it's quite wonderful.

Since I finished both of them off in short order, I'm back to finishing off System Shock 2 (a great game, and I'm finally within spitting distance of the end) and starting up Nocturne (promising storyline and astounding graphics, but I'm still unsure on how much I hate the fixed third-person perspective).  [Nov 1 1999]

Computer Games

Or, how I learned how to stop worrying and love the computer.

I've always been fond of games, but I've especially always been enamored of computer games. The roots of my depravity stretch back to the early 1980s, when we first obtained an Apple II computer. Perhaps as a sign of days to come, the very first game we obtained was Olympic Decathlon, by a small company named . . . Microsoft. We later obtained the Zork games (and a slew of other Infocom titles), Wizardry, Robot Odyssey I, Conan, Castle Wolfenstein (and Smurfenstein) and many others. Oh, those were glorious times.

Still, when compared to anything except the Atari, the Apple's graphics pretty much, well, stunk. We later got an Apple IIgs, and that was better (The Bard's Tale on an Apple IIgs is a sight to see [and even more of a sight to hear. IBM music just never got that cool until the AWE32 and similar products]. I later obtained the IBM PC version [on a massive discount] and was highly disappointed.) Still, the Apple IIgs never had all that many games for it, and most of them were also pretty lame. The Macintosh Classic I got for writing papers on (although it got used more as a dumb terminal for reading e-mail) also was pretty much of a clunker, games-wise (although I enjoyed both Loom and Onyx). Here I was squinting at a little 9" screen, while people were raving about Wolfenstein 3D and something called Doom.

Well, no more.

In 1995, I finally managed to buy something vaguely resembling a state of the art PC (at the time I bought it, at least), and now -- through the constant upgrades required by this awful Red Queen's Race -- I too can enjoy those same games that are wasting the time of millions across the globe. The current system now has nothing in common with that original system -- I finally replaced the 1.2 gig disk drive which came with it with a 13 gig drive, for all my >1 gig game installation needs (Freespace 2 and Nocturne contended hotly for the honor of being the first game to take more than a gig for the installation). My current specs are:

Hopefully this system (most of which I bought in April of 1999) will last me a good 6 weeks before some smartass game company releases a game that brings it to its knees.

A Note on Controllers

I want to take a moment to comment on the controller devices which have dramatically improved my gameplay experience markedly:

I recommend these devices unreservedly. OK, there is one drawback to the Trackman; you have to be careful to set it at a good height, or you can bruise your wrist. Don't set it too high; make sure it's at elbow height. This is good advice for any input device, though.

Games I have enjoyed

I must admit to being disappointed by many of the games I have played over the years. Some games have just outright stunk (a notable example is Milo, which tried to appeal to the Myst crowd, but didn't even have a thinly veiled plot to tie the puzzles together), and some games have started out fun but didn't have much staying power. Still, there have been a few games here and there which have turned around to be immensely enjoyable experiences.These include the following games, for which I've provided my impressions:

Understanding the entries

There are four main categories for the entries: Adventures (usually, graphical adventures, in the style of Curse of Monkey Island or Myst), Explosions (games where I get to make things go boom), and Dress-Up (role-playing games).

These aren't reviews in the sense that I try to evaluate the game as good or bad; if the game makes it in here, it means that it's one that I have played and one that I have liked. If it isn't here, then one of those two conditions isn't true. So, if you find you like the kinds of games that I like, this might be useful for you.

Each entry has four parts, as illustrated below:

  • Game Name (Year(s) played). Kibitzing. [Date kibitzing written]

The Game Name section will be a link to the official web page for the game if it exists, or some unofficial page for it, if I manage to find one. The year(s) played section tells you when I played the game, which may or may not give you a sense for when the game was played by most people (and what kind of minimum system requirements it has :). The kibitzing section is just that -- it's where I kibitz about why this game is a game that I actually like. Finally, the [Date kibitzing written] section is meant to give you a sense for the context in which I wrote the kibitzing (i.e., while I was still playing the game, years afterwards, years beforehand, whatever).


(Note: Some older game impressions have been moved to a different page.)



Other game resources

I obsessively check various online game resources to try to stay informed about current and upcoming releases, largely so that I can try to avoid buying games that are stinkers in the first place. My favorites are:
  • GameSpot (has decent news and good reviews, including reader-supplied reviews)
  • Blue's News (updated freakishly often, with a focus on games that bring your computer to it's knees)
  • Desslock's RPG News (updated every few days--the best and perhaps only source for RPG news on the web)
  • GamesDomain Review (has good news and reviews)
  • The Internet Games Charts
  • Anything in comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.* (I frequent rpg, action, and adventure.)

I also tend to buy game magazines (like PC Gamer) that have demo CDs associated with them. I find I tend to agree with PC Gamer's reviews, but your mileage may vary.


Finally, it's worth noting just how cool multi-player capability is. As I write this at the beginning of 1999, multi-player has finally become a standard addition to a game, rather than the rarity it was just a few years earlier. Internet play is becoming more common (although few games actually deal with lag issues reasonably), and LAN play seriously rules. I don't play much over the Internet, but we have a house Ethernet with several computers on it, so I have plenty of opportunities for local, low latency fun. We've even got constant Internet access via our Infospeed DSL line (with NAT connectivity provided by the lovely and talented SyGate from Sybergen ).

Traditional Games

I'm also a sucker for more traditional games, largely because I enjoy enjoying myself more than I enjoy doing real work. (That's why I've picked a line of work that often consists of playing with cool toys.) Thankfully, several of our friends in Pittsburgh get together with us on Sunday evenings for good food, good company, and late-night game playing, so this is an itch which can get scratched.

These are some of the games I particularly enjoy:

Cosmic Encounter and the like

Cosmic Encounter is a wonderful example of an entertaining class of games: those games which have a really ludicrous number of rules and variations, but distribute the ludicrousness onto the cards and playing pieces, so that a) they're not all in force at once, and b) when they are in force, it's easy to keep track of what they do, because the rules are on the pieces. The basic game is quite simple--the variations and permutations make it an entertaining exercise in brute cunning, and raw bastardy.

Another game with a similar property is Illuminati: New World Order. This winner from Steve Jackson Games is a CCG (Collectible Card Game; y'know, like Magic: The Blathering) which captures the flavor of hip, funny, crackpot conspiracy theorizing--the kind the us college students like 'cuz it makes us feel like intelligentsia, as opposed to just being people with not enough to do. I enjoy this game, but I hate the amount of setup required (specifically, I don't like to build decks, but I also don't want to play someone else's premade deck). Also, I don't have the encyclopedic knowledge of clever tricks that other local INWO players have, so I continually get creamed. So, I don't play very often.

Card Games

After several years of only settling for ludicrously complicated games with lots of custom cards, tokens, and silly rule sets, it finally dawned on me that what I really like are games that are:

Thankfully, there is a class of games which fit this, and they're almost all played with the standard 52 card deck. I'm all in favor of oldies and goodies, like Hearts, Rummy, Spades, and Durac. One of these days, I'd like to learn Bridge, as well--I gather the impression that it's really a cunningly sophisticated and clever game, hiding behind a facade of grandmothers and tea.


Last modified: Nov 1 1999
Eric Tilton <tele@ology.org >