No new article this week, folks. Sorry about that! It’s the usual story of a five-Friday month and a chance for me to catch my breath. I’ll have one for you next week.
In lieu of a proper article, some administrative announcements, plus a taster of what will be coming down the pipe in the months to come:
The especially attentive among you have doubtless noticed that we crossed the border into 1995 with my last piece. That means a new slate of ebooks for 1994, the year just finished. As always, their existence is thanks to Richard Lindner. In fact, he’s been extra busy this time: we’ve also put together an ebook gathering all of the Infocom articles, something a number of you have asked me for from time to time. It begins with Will Crowther and Don Woods’s Adventure, that necessary prelude to the Infocom story, and continues all the way through my relatively recent series on the resurrection of the Z-Machine and Graham Nelson’s creation of the Inform programming language for making new games in the Infocom spirit; that seemed to me an appropriately hopeful note to end on. You’ll find Richard Lindner’s email address inside all of the ebooks. If you enjoy them, please think about dropping him a line to thank him.
In other news, I did one of my rare podcast interviews a few weeks ago, with the nice folks from The Video Game History Foundation. The subject was the game-content controversy of the early 1990s and the three enduring institutions that came out of it: the Interactive Digital Software Association (now known as the Entertainment Software Association), the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, and the E3 trade show. I’m definitely a better writer than I am an on-air personality, but perhaps some of you will enjoy it nevertheless.
The coverage to come in the immediate future will be quite graphic-adventure-heavy, as we’re now getting into the genre’s last big boom. Rest assured that I haven’t given up on other genres; they’re just in a slight lull.
- My next article will deal with The Dig, LucasArts’s second adventure game of 1995 — and what a tortured tale that one is!
- Then we’ll move on to a very eventful and profitable era at Sierra, with special coverage reserved for the second Gabriel Knight game.
- This was the year when the Interactive Fiction Renaissance really took flight, with the very first IF Competition and a downright stunning number of other big, rich games released. If you’re an old-school Infocom fan who hasn’t yet tried these games, you might just find yourself in heaven if you give them a chance, as they’re very much in the Infocom spirit, and written and implemented every bit as well.
- We’ll continue to follow the story of Legend Entertainment in some detail, looking at both of their 1995 releases.
- We’ll find time for The Dark Eye and I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, a couple of moody, artsy adventure games with some very interesting personalities behind them.
- We’ll look at some more attempts to bring full-motion-video interactive movies to the masses, with unusual and sometimes risque subject matter: titles like Voyeur and In the First Degree.
- We’ll dive into the short and rather disappointing history of Boffo Games, a partnership between Steve Meretzky and Mike Dornbrook that brought us Meretzky’s final adventure game.
- We’ll backtrack a bit to cover the story of New World Computing and the Might and Magic CRPG franchise, which will set the stage for frightfully addictive strategy game Heroes of Might and Magic.
- We’ll examine McKenzie & Co., a noble if somewhat confused attempt by a new studio called Her Interactive to make an adventure game that “girls will love!”
- The big non-gaming story waiting in the wings is that of the World Wide Web, which began breaking into the public consciousness in a big way during 1995. I’ll try to do it justice via a multi-part series that will be slotted into all of the above… somewhere.
If you have a favorite game from 1995 that isn’t listed above, don’t panic. I always shuffle things around a bit for the sake of storytelling. I promise, for example, that Blizzard Entertainment will get their due a little later, as will the debut of Microsoft Windows 95, a truly momentous event in the history of both computer gaming and consumer computing as a whole. Of course, I’m always interested in hearing your suggestions of topics you think would be interesting, although I can’t guarantee that I’ll act on all of them. (Those I decline to pursue are generally the ones which I just don’t feel I have the requisite background and/or level of passion to turn into good articles. Believe me, it’s not you, it’s me.) And if you have a line on a valuable historical source — or if you happen to be one yourself — I’m always eager to hear from you.
And now for my obligatory annual fund-raising pitch: if you like what I do here and haven’t yet signed up to become a Patreon supporter, please think about doing so (assuming of course that your personal finances allow it). Your support will help ensure that this project can keep going for a long time to come. The same naturally goes for The Analog Antiquarian, this site’s alternate-week counterpart. (We’re nearing the end of the Alexandria story there, and will soon be making a brief sojourn in Rhodes before tackling the long arc of China’s history.)
Thanks so much for reading and helping out in all the different ways you do. See you next week!
July 16, 2021 at 3:51 pm
> My next article will deal with The Dig, LucasArts’s second adventure game of 1995 — and what a tortured tale that one is!
Ooh. Yes. A game where everything about it was excellent—the visuals, the voicework, the presentation, and especially the music. Everything except the actual gameplay and its absolutely batshit nonsensical puzzles.
But I still listen to the soundtrack today while I’m writing. It’s just supernal.
July 16, 2021 at 4:39 pm
That’s an excellent selection of games, looking forward to the articles!
I have a few additional suggestions, if I may.
Star Wars: Dark Forces took the first-person-shooter formula and managed to remove the brutality. It also added interesting spatial puzzles (and of course, a multi-million-dollar franchise, with storytelling hooks). I have fond memories of the game, so I’m mostly suggesting it from selfish reasons. Also, I picked it up recently on GOG and it plays surprisingly well today.
Discworld was released in 1995, apparently. I’ve never played it but it seems like an interesting “Monkey Island meets Terry Pratchett” game.
There’s also BioForge, which I tried to play for the first time a few years back and gave up very quickly. But I remember it _felt_ revolutionary in 1995, somehow. (Even though I knew Alone in the Dark.)
Anyway, keep up the great work! I’m really enjoying this blog.
July 16, 2021 at 9:10 pm
1. This will get folded into the coverage for Jedi Knight, which in my opinion has stood the test of time a little better.
2. Likewise, Discworld 1 and 2 will get folded into the same article. The first game is for all intents and purposes insoluble, but the second is good fun all the way around. I always prefer to write articles with happy endings. ;)
3. I suspect I’d end up complaining a lot about the violence and the writing, which would just create bad feelings to little purpose. Better to leave this one to someone who feels it a little more, I think.
July 17, 2021 at 10:00 am
Interesting lineup of topics!
Related to the Discworlds, it might be worth mentioning Adventure soft’s trivial but IMO underrated Simon the sorcerer 1&2, as the 2:nd was a 1995 release. They apparently started out as a failed attempt to aquire the Discworld license (or so I’ve been told).
July 18, 2021 at 10:28 am
A little too ropy on the design front and a little too derivative to earn an article, I’m afraid. Sorry! Maybe they get a mention in the Discworld article. I wasn’t aware of the connection you describe.
July 17, 2021 at 5:46 pm
Discworld one, yes, is the adventure game where moon logic reach it’s peak (along with Curse of Enchantia) but the voice over is splendid and super funny, in particular in the case of Eric Idle’s Rincewind. I could listen to him delivering those lines 24×7. I played it through with a walkthrough by my side and, in that way, really enjoyed it.
That three part bit with the beggar who is asking for Alms for the Poor and keeps choping off limbs from his body (misunderstanding Rincewind’s suggestions) is truly hilarious.
Discworld 2, I agree, is a more classic adventure game in terms of puzzle design and pretty good overall. Looking forward for that article
September 9, 2021 at 5:38 pm
imho dark forces was way more revolutionary than jedi knight, it was the first non-mouse-look engine where it was possible to look up and down and it had real multiple floors… and of course it was finally the entry of FPS into the biggest dream of multiple generations of players: shoot some stormtroopers.
while many of those gamers (including me) were also very disappointed that the game picked a mercenary and not a jedi as the “first person”, the limitations of the engines back then would have never allowed a statisfactory light saber game mechanic. something that indeed jedi knight did amazingly well.
i would still argue both need their own articles :}
Fuck David Cage
July 19, 2021 at 9:22 pm
Discworld 1 and 2 are hilarious games with lots of strange puzzles and characters. Most of the first game is taken from the books, but the next takes a lot of liberties. Dark Forces is an amazing game, very fun and challenging and Civvie 11 has a funny video about it. I think the best game of the year is Chrono Trigger, my favorite R.P.G. and a perfect use of time travel.
July 16, 2021 at 4:54 pm
Looking forward to the I Have No Mouth article, that’s my favorite point and click adventure (though admittedly I’m not exactly a connoisseur). Also excited to see any Windows 95 coverage as I really enjoyed your Doing Windows series. Good stuff
July 16, 2021 at 4:55 pm
Three other games worth playing/covering from 1995:
1) Dust: A Tale of the Wired West. Cyberflix’s precursor to the more famous Titanic: Adventure out of Time, this is one of the few adventure westerns and is a lot more sophisticated and subtle than it first appears. You spend a week in a town, building up relationships with a large and diverse cast of characters. The tension ratchets up like High Noon as you approach the big showdown (though there is a more controversial Myst-like section after that).
2) The Journeyman Project 2: Buried in Time. A very underrated game in my view, it suffers from graphical and audio limitations but the plot, a time-travel mystery, is unusual and thought-provoking. The companion, Arthur, was pitched just right here, before becoming too over-the-top in the third game of the series.
3) Gabriel Knight 2: the Beast Within. Not a great game in terms of graphics and puzzling, but another one with a deep and well-researched plot, diving into a corner of history (19th-century Germany) that’s often ignored.
July 16, 2021 at 9:17 pm
1. Titanic is on my radar for 1996 — albeit perhaps slightly less for its intrinsic merits than for the way it inadvertently rode the movie’s coattails to become one of the decade’s last outright adventure hits. Will have a look at Dust then.
2. I have kind of a vexed relationship with this game. I recognize the ambition behind it and want to like it, but I still find it a really awkward experience to play. The last time I tried, I got hopelessly lost in Leonardo’s workshop and literally couldn’t find my way out, what with never being able to know how far any given click on an arrow will turn you. I’m not sure I want to devote an article to complaints like these and to more stern hectoring to “have someone try to play your games before you release them, kids!”
3. Gotcha covered here. It’s included among the bullet points above. ;)
July 17, 2021 at 4:35 pm
Oops, I missed that you’d already mentioned GK2. Yes, I got lost in Leonardo’s workshop as well. It’s a shame that the BiT interface is such a mess, because the game covers the implications of time travel better than most cultural treatments of it, but can see why it might not work as a full article.
Do give Dust a go, just be patient as it seems silly and over the top at the beginning, but the tone gradually deepens and darkens. There are several free versions available: I think it’s the archive.org one that’s best – I certainly tried one that the draughts game doesn’t work on. Titanic: AOOT is my favourite game and clearly is for quite a few people, as it has a lively Facebook group and quite a few new articles and videos on it have come out this year. I do think Cyberflix tried to do something bold and different with those two games: you’re set targets but have multiple ways to achieve them, and npcs aren’t just static roadblocks but have their own agendas and routines. So they feel like an experience, not just a game.
July 16, 2021 at 10:05 pm
Buried in Time was a game I treasured as a kid, personally I’d love to learn more about its history. I replayed it last year, and while I’m generally not smart enough to get through most any adventure game without a walkthrough, I thought the visuals and writing were unique and interesting (naturally in a quaint mid-nineties kind of way.) There were a lot of FMV PC games I played at the time (Frankenstein, Through the Eyes of the Monster with the ever-delightful Tim Curry for instance) but Buried in Time stuck with me the most through the years.
Interestingly enough, the final scene of the game shows you receiving a medal from the US president complete with a blonde bouffant eerily reminiscent of our most recent commander-in-chief.
July 17, 2021 at 7:58 am
I’ll give it another try at some point to see if we can become friends. But I might wait until I can wrap it all together with Pegasus Prime and Journeyman Project 3.
July 16, 2021 at 5:14 pm
Out of curiosity, are you planning to do an article on the original Sony PlayStation? I know this is a computer games/media blog, but I feel like it could deserve at least one article in the same vein as your “Generation Nintendo” article a while back.
July 16, 2021 at 6:20 pm
The closest thing you will probably get here to an article on the PS1 is the last article in his rating series, where he discussed the Western launch of the Playstation. (With a focus on the U.S launch while still touching on the European/U.K launch)
If you want more detail on the launch across regions, Digital Foundry Retro did a series on the three major (Japan, U.S, EU) launches of the Playstation, which also touches on the creation and the causes behind the creation of the Playstation in the first video.
July 16, 2021 at 9:22 pm
I think I do want to do at least one more article on Psygnosis, to complete a series I started a long time ago. That would be a good place to talk some more about the PlayStation, since Psygnosis became essentially Sony’s in-house PlayStation studio. The PlayStation’s importance to the culture of gaming — making it a *cool* thing for folks in their twenties to do — is immense. (I do suspect that we’ll start seeing more general convergence with the consoles here soon, just because the same convergence started to happen in gaming as a whole during the late 1990s.) Anyway, the Psygnosis/PlayStation stuff will likely be slotted in 1996.
July 16, 2021 at 6:42 pm
Will you be writing about “Phantasmagoria”?
July 16, 2021 at 9:24 pm
Yes, but folded into the story of Sierra during 1994 and 1995. It’s more interesting as an historical curiosity than a game you might still want to play today. ;)
July 17, 2021 at 4:33 pm
I’d actually never heard of it until reading your Roberta Williams pieces and looking up where she went later in her career. She really seemed to want to break free of the Sierra “mom” stereotype.
July 19, 2021 at 3:46 am
I’ve wanted to read your more-detailed take on Phantasmagoria ever since you described it a couple of years ago as “so ludicrously bad that it becomes sort of fascinating in a Plan 9 from Outer Space sort of way.” I’d love to see it given your full long-form treatment, although I agree it’s not something you’d want to play today—or would have wanted to play in 1995, for that matter.
July 19, 2021 at 6:00 am
About half of the article to come deals directly with Phantasmagoria. I’m not sure I could say much more about it under any circumstances. And when I need to write about a bad game, I’d rather place it firmly in the context of its time than just spend 5000 words slagging it off; there’s no joy for me in the latter.
But I must admit that my opinion of this game has softened a bit since I looked at it again for the first time in many years. It’s definitely not good in any sort of way, but perhaps not quite “ludicrously bad” in comparison to a lot of other full-motion-video productions of the time. Much of its modern-day status as the poster child for FMV awfulness is doubtless down to its high profile in its heyday, as one of the ten or so best-selling adventure games of the entire decade.
July 19, 2021 at 2:56 pm
Devoting half of one of your articles to a subject is plenty in-depth! Anyway, I’m less interested a take-down of how bad Phantasmagoria is (that would be fun to read, but less so to write, I’d imagine) than your take on why it’s so bad. Plan 9 isn’t actually a great comparison, IMO, because it was the product of lack of talent and almost no budget. Neither of those were typically problems at Sierra.
Anyway, I’m looking forward to that installment.
July 19, 2021 at 11:55 pm
It does very few things as badly as other “famously” bad games do. But it chose to lean heavily on the things it does worst, and doesn’t seem to realize where its own (meager) strengths lie.
May 2, 2023 at 10:56 am
I played Phantasmagoria when it came out, and a few times since then, and always enjoyed it. It is cheesy, true, in that FMV style-o’-the-times; but I always found the story interesting and the at least some of the puzzles germane to its plot, which is always a good thing.
The second act gets a bit slow (but that seems to be typical of not only interactive games, but most movies in the drama or thriller genre), but I’ve found the ending compelling, and it’s fast pace fitting.
Horses for courses, I guess.
July 17, 2021 at 2:45 am
Jimmy, have you ever considered devoting an article to Nethack? I know roguelikes are not your forte, but its development model gives you plenty of material: the resurrection of “hacker” development in the age of the Internet, rolling releases, etc. There is plenty there for a historian of PC gaming. Since it is STILL being updated, you could slot it into any year you want.
July 17, 2021 at 5:30 am
I’d thought to run through some of that history as a prelude to Diablo.
July 17, 2021 at 4:06 am
Oooooh, one of those Legend games must be Mission Critical! This just made it to GOG in the last year and I was delighted to play it again. With some exceptions, I feel it has some of the most grounded puzzles of any adventure game.
Oddly, though, among all those fascinating games you teased, it’s the Dark Eye I’m most looking forward to hearing about. I ended up a little obsessed with that game, maybe because I bought it without having an svga video card that could run it. So I just STARED at the box day in and day out wishing I could play it. When I was finally able to… well, it wasn’t all that great. But there are still some moments (teeth) that I remember to this day (teeth). And William S. Burroughs’ recitation of the Red Death is about as great a gift as any video game has given us.
Very much looking forward to it all!
July 17, 2021 at 12:46 pm
In 1995 a guilty pleasure of mine was released on PCs and the original playstation: a little-known point & click-adventure called “Silverload”. Truthfully, it’s a hell of an irritating game full of egregious design sins and insta-deaths that make the worst Sierra offenders look tame and user-friendly by comparison. Click on the wrong part of the very first screen? You’re dead. Leave the starting area without an important item noone told you about and that you neither know it’s there nor that you’ll need it? You’re dead. Spend too much money shopping without getting key items you don’t know you’re going to need? You’re (walking) dead. You need to go pixel-hunting with little feedback what parts of the screen you can actually interact with, most of the times you can only learn what you need to do by dying over and over again, and even then some of the puzzle chains make little too know sense (for example, at one point you need to use tongs on a statue, and I don’t think you ever receive even a hint that you need to do that… Oh, and you need to make sure to click on the right part of the statue as well, otherwise nothing is happening at all). And the voice acting in the PC version seems to come from its very own layer of hell (thankfully they rerecorded most of the voices for the PSX version – they are still corny and amateurish, but far less irritating, decent even for your average 1995 outing, and actually fit the mood of the game rather nicely there).
And yet… I kind of dig the game. It has loads of atmosphere, it goes into directions few other adventure games of that time dared to venture, it offers a suspenseful plot on the verge of horror (though admittedly, I have no mouth but I must scream is better in that regard) and the art style is very distinct (although again the PSX version wins out here, since they redrew many sequences, mich to the game’s overall advantage).
Mostly it’s a masterclass in what NOT to do when designing a point & click adventure. But if you find the time, I would recommend giving it a look. It’s not very long, and it’s an interesting, different take on the genre from a little known developer.
July 18, 2021 at 10:41 am
I’ve complained about these sorts of design flaws enough already, I think. Speaking only for myself, it’s tough for me to forgive a game’s fundamental brokenness in the name of things like story or atmosphere…
July 17, 2021 at 12:58 pm
“Meretzky’s final adventure game”
Assuming that you mean “The Space Bar”, wouldn’t that really be a 1997 game? They may have begun development in 1995 but it still feels like jumping ahead to me to include it now (not that I mind!).
July 18, 2021 at 10:35 am
Boffo only released two games, both of which seemed like they should have been great and neither of which quite succeeded in being so. It’s an interesting story in its way, but I think one article is enough to cover it.
July 18, 2021 at 2:51 pm
I see, Jimmy. I wasn’t aware (or possibly didn’t read carefully enough) that you were also planning to include Hodj n Podj (sic?!). It’s a rather surprising choice, too, and I’m looking forward to reading the article as I know next to nothing about the company.
July 18, 2021 at 3:25 pm
Hodj ‘n’ Podj is actually an elaboration upon Fooblitzky, Infocom’s one non-adventure game. So, of course I have to write about it. ;)
July 17, 2021 at 2:41 pm
I’m not sure it’s really in your wheelhouse, but I want to pitch Mechwarrior 2 out there.
It has the pulp sci-fi novel and tabletop legacy of Battletech. It basically started the giant robot sim genre in earnest on PC. It was a huge title for Activision. The music was a landmark in game soundtracks. And lastly it got idiosyncratically tied up in the burgeoning 3D accelerator market with many, many different versions packed in with assorted graphics cards. Many of them singularly compatible with the card they shipped with.
Plus I don’t know a ton about it’s development, but I hear it was rather tortured, so there could be some good human drama there.
July 18, 2021 at 10:37 am
Yeah… I really struggle with the whole giant robots thing. It just seems irredeemably silly to me, even in comparison to other game fictions. But as I said, it’s me, not you.
July 22, 2021 at 10:31 am
Well, to be honest, it doesn’t make any tactical sense to build mechs, (very heavy, very expensive and very tall). And I cannot understand, this fixation with them (Especially in Japan).
Aside from that, I think Mechwarrior 1 & 2 are really good games!! (Mech 3, not so much!!)
May 2, 2023 at 11:16 am
>> Well, to be honest, it doesn’t make any tactical sense to build mechs, (very heavy, very expensive and very tall). And I cannot understand, this fixation with them (Especially in Japan).
It’s to be able to fight the Kaiju, of course! You need enormous robots to engage with the enormous monsters that seem to have a wanton desire to attack Tokyo. Makes perfect sense to me! ^^
May 2, 2023 at 4:10 pm
It probably has a lot to do with the extent to which Japan’s military history has (not unlike Europe) a rich and romanticized history of the single heavily-armed expert warrior, and this history is somewhat more recent than the era of the european Knight in Shining Armor, whereas Japan’s history with using the modern mechanisms of industrial warfare has a pretty spectacularly unpleasant ending.
July 17, 2021 at 2:47 pm
1995 strikes me as a boring year for video games. I can’t recall any games I would consider classic or groundbreaking. Gabriel Knight (a sequel maybe) and Phantasmagoria are two I played but they didn’t leave much of a lasting impression. Maybe the combination of Doom mania and Windows 95 created a temporary crisis.
July 22, 2021 at 4:56 am
PC gaming was going through a weird era. A lot of the old guard was fading away or struggling with how to transition into the CD era (and into early 3D). This was right in the middle of the CRPG slump, and adventure games were having their last gasp. PC gaming in general was losing ground to consoles. Even consoles had a bit of a lull, with a lot of sequels on the previous generation and the next generation (PSX, Saturn, etc.) not having gotten into full swing yet.
That said, I’m seeing Chrono Trigger, Command & Conquer, Heroes of Might & Magic, Warcraft II, Tactics Ogre, and Suikoden all as 1995 releases, which is pretty respectable.
May 17, 2022 at 2:58 pm
You’re right, Command & Conquer and Warcraft II were pretty important in staking out the new RTS game type. I played and loved both of those, C&C more than WCII actually, though the masses seemed to gravitate more to the latter. Do those fit into the type of games Jimmy likes to cover? The other games you mention I either didn’t play or never heard of.
July 17, 2021 at 4:35 pm
I am looking forward to your next installment on Sierra On-Line. I have long been fascinated by the rise and fall of that company.
July 17, 2021 at 6:59 pm
I think it’s from 1994 and it not deserve an article even if it was from 95, but I wonder: have you ever played Dreamweb?
It’s a very dark and grim point & click with a very strange top view interface in which you have to assesinate 7 people because some entity told the main caracther to do it. By the end, you don’t know if he is insane or not.
July 18, 2021 at 10:39 am
I might have something to say about that one in the context of other “adult” games like Voyeur.
July 17, 2021 at 7:31 pm
+1 to nethack. It’s still a remarkable game — the detail of its simulation was unparalleled at the time and still impressive today. It makes a good exemplar for the entire “roguelike” genre that’s become such a major force in the last 10–15 years. I’d suggest that it would make a good article on its own rather than merely a precursor to Diablo, because while Diablo shared the same basic premise as nethack (explore randomized dungeon, kill monsters), its action-oriented approach and tiny set of verbs was the antithesis of nethack’s dungeon survival simulation. The story of nethack’s gradual open development over the course of decades would be a good counterpoint to all the industry stories of overworked, exploited developers.
(And I would still suggest that Bungie’s Marathon series was an interesting interstitial development between the straightforward violence of Doom and the plot-heavy shooters of today, and would make an interesting discussion if you ever get as far as 2001’s Halo, which borrowed from it liberally. But I appreciate that janky 90s shooters are not your jam, and respect your preferences.)
July 22, 2021 at 5:06 am
I would argue that Angband is a better fit here, in part because David Brevik cites it specifically as the most direct influence on Diablo. (Angband and Diablo share a surface town, a simple “go to the bottom and kill Big Bad” main quest, and a generally more hack-and-slash attitude.) I also think the Angband community’s enthusiasm for variants is a more interesting story that can be compared to other authoring communities Jimmy has written about, including the IF community, as opposed to the sometimes monk-like isolation of the Dev Team. I say this despite generally preferring the Hack lineage.
July 18, 2021 at 9:27 am
Apart from those already mentioned, Command & Conquer and Descent are somewhat important games of 1995.
July 18, 2021 at 10:43 am
They aren’t games I get very personally excited about, but they’ll get mentioned in a general sort of way at some point, I promise.
July 19, 2021 at 1:07 pm
Sounds promising, looking forward to further articles on Legend Entertainment and the Dig one especially. 1995 really wasn’t the best year for LucasArts adventures as both Full Throttle and the Dig are among my least favourite of their works for completely opposite reasons. Still games I enjoyed to a degree..
Well, Command & Conquer was certainly important and influential, there were a constant stream of clones copying the template Westwood set for real time strategy game with Dune 2 and especially C&C really made that genre explode in popularity, probably the genre second only to FPS in the PC market mid to late 90s.
October 24, 2021 at 3:14 pm
Full Throttle was one of the few LucasArts games I started playing then set aside due to lack of enjoyment.
Fuck David Cage
July 19, 2021 at 9:18 pm
A lot of great games came out in 19995: Dark Forces, Chronono Trigger *my favorite R.P.G,* Chronomaster, Crusader: No Remorse, Discworld, Donkey Kong Country 2, Jikkyō Oshaberi Parodius, Lufia 2, Mechwarrior 2, Ristar, the first two Puzzle Bobbles, Suikoden, Rayman, The Journeyman Project 2, I have No Mouth and I Must Scream and Spawn. It also suffered from some worthless shit like The Dark Eye, Phantasmagoria, Virtual Hydlide, Highlander, Big Sky Trooper and Darkseed 2.
It was a transitional year for video games: The amazing run of the NES came to an end the previous year, the 16 bit consoles were dying, publishers were experimenting with failed consoles like the 3DO, CDI, Virtual and Saturn and the Playstation was released, followed in 1996 by the N64. I think games lost something in the process: Games in later generations never quite captured the magic of the 8 and 16 bit days, and awful genres like generic shooters, bland zombie games and rhythm games became common. There are still some great modern series though, like Splatoon, Xenoblade, Edmund Macmullen’s work, Hotline Miami, the new style Resident Evil, Sly Cooper and Red Dead Redemption.
Some ideas for articles: An article about sequels that were much better or worse than previous games, like Lufia and the Fortress of Doom was far surpassed by Lufia 2 and Energy Breaker; an article about the definitive time travel game, Chrono Trigger; an article about the weirdness of Parodius and Twinbee; an article about the short lives and massive failure of consoles that were around in 1995 like the 3DO, CDI, Saturn and Virtual Boy; an article about the failure and death of Gunpei Yokoi after the Virtual Boy failed;
October 24, 2021 at 3:22 pm
Those are all great ideas for articles. If Jimmy didn’t want to dedicate a full article to some of these games, he could do a compilation article of smaller but important games.
Thanks for mentioning Xenoblade. I’m playing through Breath of the Wild at the moment and the designers of the open world worked on Xenoblade Chronicles X. I’m tempted to try that game out too.
July 20, 2021 at 8:09 pm
Looking forward to 95 Jimmy – it sounds fantastic. I’m very interested in the Might and Magic story – it gets very little airtime online so I’ll be fascinated to hear what you know/discover. And I’ll be first in line for the Infocom book. I would probably buy a hardcopy of that for the shelf. Most writing on this topic, in my opinion tends to be poor. Your articles were a great read. All the best, can’t wait to keep reading.
Alianora La Canta
August 2, 2021 at 8:51 pm
There are a lot of games I enjoyed from 1995… …but all the ones I can think of are either ones you’ve already said you’ll cover, or ones I don’t think have anything to add to the history of narrative gaming. I’m particularly excited about the growing indie scene, because that was something I missed out on “the first time around” (not having the World Wide Web until some years after this date did not help).
August 6, 2021 at 5:12 pm
Bit late to this one, but are you going to cover Worms at all? If nothing else, it’s the last hit game to originate on the Amiga.
Will also echo above suggestions of Command & Conquer; while much has been made of Doom’s influence, C&C will effectively dominate the rest of the decade as far as PC gaming is concerned.
August 7, 2021 at 7:28 am
Will have a look at Worms 2 a little later, and rope in the first as well if I feel I can make a decent article out of it. It certainly has an interesting origin story.
And duly noted on Command & Conquer. It’s not a game my heart will ever burn with passion for, but I’ll contrive some way to give it its due.
May 2, 2023 at 11:30 am
Like you, C&C was never a game that fit my typical predilections; but at the insistence of a friend, I joined a few networked play sessions and found it to be a great deal of fun. (Much like Doom’s Deathmatch, which I always ignored and viewed with contempt and derision — that is, until I played it with my friends and got hooked, at least for a while.)
Warcraft II turned out to be a very good implementation of the RTS genre, and enjoying it was so out of character for me, since these are not at all even remotely close to my preferred type of play.
On that last one, I find the story of Warcraft itself to be compelling and genuinely interesting, in that pulpy-fantasy-genre sort of way (which I have to stress again, is absolutely, very much, *not* my thing). Playing the series in single-player mode immerses you in a rather large and compelling world and story, which builds up over the series.
Then again, playing with friends in real-time was always the best way to play.
August 8, 2021 at 9:21 pm
Very disappointed not to see Warcraft 2 and Command and Conquer on the list. I think there are number of interesting angles to take if you were to cover those games:
1. Their launch triggered a massive RTS boom, as well as kicking off one of the defining studio rivalries of the decade
2. The Warcraft series will go on to be one of the biggest in all gaming, and Warcraft 2 was the game that really brought it into the mainstream
3. The way Joe Kucan worked to define the fiction of C&C is interesting, acting as a sort of FMV equivalent to the role Robert Pinsky played during the bookware boom. If you wanted to be snarky, you could even say that the shift from award winning poet to jobbing actor represents a diminishing of gaming’s cultural ambitions.
August 15, 2021 at 5:30 pm
I hope you’re planning on continuing your history of games at least through the early 2000s, because that’s when I got into PC gaming. You make reading about games I’ve never played, and probably wouldn’t even enjoy, genuinely interesting.
But, now you’re getting closer to “my” era and I’d like to see your take on games I played when they first came out, instead of either long after or not at all.
“I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”? I’ve read the story and it kind of freaked me out. No clue why anyone would want to make a game based on it. That should be an … Interesting …. Article.
September 6, 2021 at 8:58 pm
I am super late to this, but have you considered covering Chop Suey? I feel like it ties into a lot of your existing interesting (experimental narrative, multimedia CD-roms) and is also a really good opportunity to talk about “games for girls” in a way that I think there hasn’t been a dedicated article yet.
Some good resources if you’re not famiiar: https://www.vice.com/en/article/vvvjpb/in-a-field-of-90s-barbieland-wreckage-chop-suey-got-gaming-for-girls-totally-right
September 6, 2021 at 9:01 pm
Totally skimmed past that you were already doing a Her Interactive story – something you could fold into that, maybe.
September 7, 2021 at 6:35 am
Indeed. Thanks for this. I hadn’t heard of it.
September 9, 2021 at 5:42 pm
do you have any plans to write about little big adventure? technically 1994 though.
September 13, 2021 at 9:43 am
I wrote a bit about it at the end of my piece on Alone in the Dark, but, no, no other plans. Although it’s lovely to look at it, I find its design sensibility leaves something to be desired.
May 2, 2023 at 11:03 am
Since you asked for ideas, would you be diving into so-called survival horror games, like Resident Evil and Silent Hill? Although more oriented toward action, they still maintain a sense of interactive storytelling in order to evoke atmosphere and suspense, and can be quite immersive — especially the later ones, when the genre has matured a little.
This type of games may not be your cup-o’-tea, but I find them to be yet another thread in the rich tapestry of interactive fiction, with a somewhat direct line to the early adventure games.