So, folks, we’re finally through with 1993! Thanks as always to the good offices of Richard Lindner, an ebook compiling the last run of articles is now available to commemorate the occasion. If you enjoy it, please consider sending Richard a thank you at the email address found on the ebook’s first page.
I’ve already opened the curtain on 1994 with my most recent article, on the adventure game Under a Killing Moon, and I anticipate future articles on the graphic adventures Beneath a Steel Sky (odd naming concordance there, eh?), Superhero League of Hoboken, and Death Gate. Still, adventures in general were in a bit of a lull this year while everyone retooled to jump onto the CD-ROM, SVGA, and full-motion-video bandwagons. Luckily, several other genres definitely were not. This was arguably the biggest year of the 1990s for strategy games, with the likes of Theme Park, Transport Tycoon, Master of Magic, Panzer General, Colonization, and X-Com, all of which will get articles. Ditto space simulations, with Microsoft Space Simulator, TIE Fighter, and Wing Commander III. Origin Systems, the purveyor of the last mentioned blockbuster, also published the disastrous Ultima VIII and the sublime System Shock. In the realm of the slightly more esoteric, there’s Lode Runner: The Legend Returns from Sierra/Dynamix, which will provide me with a sneaky way to shoehorn in coverage of the original Lode Runner, one of the Apple II’s iconic titles that I sadly neglected back in the day. (For that matter, coverage of Microsoft Space Simulator should give me a chance to do the same for the similarly neglected Flight Simulator.)
In addition to all of this gaming coverage, I do want to start to take the second part of this site’s subtitle — the “digital culture” part — even more seriously than before. It seems only appropriate: between 1973 and 1993, the microchip revolutionized the way much of the business world conducted itself and changed the way some segments of the general population entertained themselves; between 1994 and 2014, the microchip combined with the Internet reshaped the everyday lives of all of us. I’d like for those changes as well to become a part of this site’s focus.
The big, obvious story lurking out there, of how the Internet and the World Wide Web came to be, is one that I think I’m going to reserve for 1995, when the Web really began to take off as a mainstream phenomenon. But I do want to work in two other non-gaming articles or series of them this year. One will be on the Voyager Company, an ambitious and visionary initiative to publish curated multimedia content on CD-ROM, with results that hold up better than you might expect today. (I bought a 1999-vintage iMac in order to explore the Voyager catalog last December, and it’s cost me a shocking number of hours since.) The shape of the other series is a bit more nebulous in my mind at the moment, but it will involve the music world’s response to the microcomputer revolution, perhaps beginning with early-1980s albums like Kraftwerk’s Computerworld and Prince’s 1999 that were suffused with the new technology in terms of both sound and lyrics, and definitely culminating in the interactive CD-ROMs released in the early- to mid-1990s by such artists as Prince, Peter Gabriel, the Residents, Todd Rundgren, Laurie Anderson, David Bowie, and Billy Idol.
Another article or short series of them which I’d like to write kind of sits in the middle of this site’s two briefs: I’d like to examine the controversy over videogame content which flared up around the games Night Trap and Mortal Kombat, and led to the hasty imposition of the first industry-wide content-rating system in 1994. Also somewhere in that mix will be an examination of early “naughty” CD-ROMs, including both the markets for outright pornography and for relatively more respectable fare like Voyeur.
I’m more grateful than ever to those of you who support this work financially, what with these current tough times of ours. If you’re a regular reader who hasn’t yet taken the plunge, please do consider making a Patreon pledge if your finances allow. In return, I promise to keep delivering an interesting, informative, and entertaining article (almost) every other week — every week if you happen to enjoy The Analog Antiquarian as well! — for as long as I possibly can. It does seem that some of us at least may be in and out of lock downs for quite a while to come. It’s good to have things to read there, right?
Thank you for being the best readers in the world! Here’s to many more years and many more ebooks! See you tomorrow with a proper article…
July 16, 2020 at 10:10 am
I was worried that the series was winding down with the past few articles, but I’m very glad to see that it will continue. Looking forward to more amazing pieces in the future!
S. John Ross
July 16, 2020 at 11:46 am
1992-1994 were my main stretch as a videogame journalist, so it’s fun seeing different perspectives on those times. I really treasure this series.
July 16, 2020 at 12:29 pm
Enjoying your writing as always. But I notice a curious absence of any mention of products by a certain company named after a particularly strong snowstorm? Or will that be coming up…
July 16, 2020 at 1:02 pm
:) Will definitely be writing about Diablo in some detail, but that’s 1996. While the first two Warcraft games were certainly huge in their time, and will almost certainly get mentioned here and there in that context, I’m kind of inclined to reserve a design analysis until Starcraft, which was the first-generation real-time-strategy game perfected.
July 20, 2020 at 9:19 am
Actually, some would say that it was Warcraft III. In my opinion, Starcraft was was the “Quake” of Warcraft’s “DOOM.”
But if you want to talk impact, try Command & Conquer: Red Alert. That truly was the “deathmatch” of its (games) generation.
Truly, by the time Starcraft enters the picture, real-time strategy games had already bloomed quite handsomely into the public sphere.
July 16, 2020 at 5:44 pm
Love this series! Any plans for an article on The Elder Scrolls/Bethesda?
July 16, 2020 at 6:00 pm
Arena and Daggerfall had good intentions, but their big, empty, repetitive worlds are pretty much the definition of “no fun” in my book. As with Warcraft, will likely pick up that thread as backstory when we get to Morrowind — which, like Starcraft, finally perfected that particular formula. I do understand that decisions like these may disappoint some, but they have to be made to maintain some semblance of forward momentum. My strong preference, which is admittedly sometimes overridden by other considerations, is to write in detail about good games that have held up well. (Which games those are, of course, is inevitably a matter of opinion.)
July 16, 2020 at 9:31 pm
I actually agree completely! RPGs are my favorite genre and I’m always trying to read about them, especially since the CRPG addict got stuck on 1992. He’s doing his best but that year and 1993 are just bloated full of forgettable titles
July 17, 2020 at 4:59 pm
Morrowind substantially changed the formula utilized in Arena and Daggerfall by severely restricting the use of procedural generation while offering hand-crafted dungeons and an overworld that was scaled down in order to be traversable. By contrast, Daggerfall touted a procedurally-generated overworld larger than England, but due to this very vastness forced players to rely on the fast-travel option, while the players spent most of their time exploring the labyrinthine procedurally-generated 3D dungeons. The story of an Amiga-based developer of sports games transitioning to RPGs with a first-person perspective in 3D environments and teetering on the edge of financial ruin is itself an interesting one that is relevant to contemporary trends in computer gaming that you’ve already reached in your articles.
July 16, 2020 at 8:45 pm
It is a shame we will have to wait so long to see your take on the Elder Scrolls. To whet our collective whistles, would you at least investigate the story of Arena’s cover?
“Legend” says that Arena was originally designed as a gladiatorial arena game that morphed into an RPG. Unfortunately, the cover had already been printed, and so they placed “Elder Scrolls” on the cover to align it with the fantasy genre and create some halfhearted lore about Tamriel being an “arena” of the powers. Several parts of that story do not pass the sniff test. Do you have any further information?
July 17, 2020 at 4:40 am
In the broad strokes at least, and contrary to so many gamer legends, that story would seem to be true. I’ve heard it directly from Bethesda founder Christopher Weaver.
July 17, 2020 at 12:20 am
Any more articles to come up on Westwood Studios? Though I suppose the big and hugely influential game they developed didn’t come out till 1995… Still, they closed their charming if flawed adventure game trilogy in 1994 with Kyrandia 3.
Looking forward to the article on Beneath the Steel Sky.
July 17, 2020 at 4:45 am
Westwood will be popping up from time to time. Kyrandia is a little meh for me, though… those games are competent but fairly workmanlike stuff in the realm of fantasy graphic adventures, and don’t have a great deal of historical importance to recommend them either. (Certainly they are better than your average King’s Quest — but then, so is just staring at the wall all evening.) The next Westwood article will appear as part of 1995’s coverage, and will be about, surprisingly enough, their computerized Monopoly, which did — or attempted to do — some really groundbreaking stuff with artificial intelligence.
July 17, 2020 at 6:51 am
Have you ever considered writing about Dreamweb? It was an odd little adventure game, interesting because of its antihero protagonist, handwritten “Diary of a mad man” feelie, sampled music and adult themes. It wasn’t universally praised, though.
Your writing and choice of themes are excellent, looking forward to ’94!
July 17, 2020 at 7:41 am
It may find a place in the piece on “adult” content…
July 17, 2020 at 5:37 pm
I wanted to take a moment to thank you for the high quality of your content on this site. The release of a new article is often the highlight of my Friday.
July 17, 2020 at 6:38 pm
Thank you so much for deciding to continue past Doom! Being born in 1981, most of the various games you’re looking to cover from 1994 are my “second wave” of PC gaming; as a child, I played with my parents’ TI99/4A, Apple IIc, and Tandy 1000. After that, I was mostly playing NES and Super NES. But in 1993, we got a proper PC for the first time, a Gateway 2000 386SX, and I barely touched a console again until the advent of Gran Turismo on the PlayStation in 1998.
So these upcoming games are right in my wheelhouse as I have much stronger memories of these than anything you’ve written about so far, with the exceptions of Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Ultima VII (all played on that Gateway starting in 1993, of course!) I’ve been a longtime reader but now I intend to contribute in the comments much more. Time to pony up to your Patreon as well; considering how much I enjoy your site, that’s long overdue!
July 24, 2020 at 1:09 am
I know this is an off the wall suggestion, but in two blog years will you consider talking about the “legend” of Battlecruiser 3000AD and Derek Smart? (Cue appearance in 3 … 2 … 1 …)
July 24, 2020 at 6:24 am
It’s a strong candidate. Although I prefer to keep things positive on the whole, some train wrecks are hard to resist.
July 28, 2020 at 9:52 pm
Jimmy – I know this routinely gets asked in the comments of almost every article you write but please consider publishing your articles in a traditional book format.
I’ve funded a bunch of inferior efforts through Kickstarter and Indiegogo and it would be good to have a collection of your articles alongside The Future Was Here.
July 30, 2020 at 10:58 am
I’m not unsympathetic to your request, but the fundamental barrier remains the same: the economics of producing physical books just don’t work at this time. Sorry!
July 30, 2020 at 9:19 pm
Understood. But you can always approach the likes of Fusion Retro Books, Read Only Memory and Bitmap Books who have experience in publishing this sort of content (e.g. see “The CRPG Book” by Bitmap Books). They are all on Facebook/Twitter and I’m sure would absolutely go for a collection of your articles.
Just a thought.
September 4, 2020 at 6:02 am
Thanks for the ebooks. I don’t have the regular access to the internet as I used to have so they are a godsend.
At no 11 already. The misses now also into them.
It brings memories flooding as about no 11 is where our pc experiences stars. South Africa was – and still IS – about 3-4 years behind in this business.
Think i have stated earlier that my wife was at that time a mainframe developer/programmer.
Keep it up!