Another Year Down, Many More to Go

01 Sep

This new month of September being a five-Friday month, I’ve decided to take this week as an opportunity to bank an article. That way, I’ll be able to travel back to the United States for the holidays later on this year without missing two weeks of content in a row across my two sites. In lieu of a proper article — which you’ll get next week, I promise — how about if we pause today to take a breath and survey the territory behind and ahead of us?

As the more studious readers among you may already have noticed, we finally moved out of the borderlands between 1996 and 1997 and into the new year proper with my last article. That means it’s ebook time. You can find the 1996 volume of the ever-growing Digital Antiquarian archive, in .epub or .mobi editions and with or without reader comments included, in the usual place. I learned how to make these myself this time, but the tools I used to do so are still those of Richard Lindner. Thanks, Richard! I shouldn’t have to bother you so much going forward…

And speaking of going forward: here’s a taster of what I have tentatively planned in terms of 1997 coverage. Looking at the year as a whole, I must admit that I don’t quite see one bursting with perfectly formed classics. But I do, on the other hand, see a year of important experiments that laid the groundwork for classics to come, as designers continued to wrestle the many new technological affordances they had been granted recently into natural-feeling, playable forms. The flood of undeniable classics would come in 1998, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, some quick notes on what’s in store for the immediate future. Needless to say, if you want to be completely surprised by what appears on this site every fortnight, now is the time to stop reading!

  • I’m currently working on a two-parter about the Magic: The Gathering phenomenon, the first part being about the card game that upended the whole tabletop-gaming industry in the 1990s, the second about its digital adaptation, Sid Meier’s last game for MicroProse.
  • The Last Express
  • This topic is a little more unsettled than most of them, but I’d like to do something with sex. No, not in my personal life — I’m too old and too married for that — but in the context of the digital world of the 1990s. I have a minimalist and a maximalist version in mind. The former would look at games like Voyeur I and II, Psychic Detective, Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh, Blue Heat, and Tender Loving Care, which attempted to carve out a market for “adult” computer entertainment within the interactive-movie space. The latter would survey these games as well, but expand the story to encompass the emergence of an online pornography industry, the first folks to make real money on the Web. I lean toward going for the Full Monty, so to speak, but I’d love to hear your secret thoughts and innermost desires. Or, um, come to think of it, just the surface ones would be fine.
  • Japanese CRPGs, leading up to and then showcasing Final Fantasy VII. This is foreign territory for me in more ways than one, but the story of how this hugely popular strand of gaming emerged out of the Apple II Wizardry strikes me as under-told, while Final Fantasy VII itself is without a doubt one of the most beloved games of all time. It even fulfills the letter of my law of focusing on computer rather than console games here, since it did get a release on Windows…
  • Ultima Online
  • Age of Empires
  • Broken Sword: The Smoking Mirror
  • Developments in the realm of the first-person shooter, especially Unreal and Jedi Knight. (I’ve already had a lot of fun playing Jedi Knight start to finish, a first for me with the genre whilst writing these histories. Maybe I can stop worrying and learn to love to run and gun…)
  • Fallout
  • Riven
  • Blade Runner
  • The Curse of Monkey Island
  • Zork: Nemesis and Zork: Grand Inquisitor

Feel free to chime in in the comments with suggestions of what you’d like to see. While I can’t promise to deliver on every request — I do have to follow my own muse to some extent in order to give you good articles, and I do have to keep moving so that our progress through history doesn’t start to take even longer than living through the real events did — I do take them all seriously.

And if you’re a regular reader who hasn’t yet taken the Patreon plunge, please do give that some thought as well if your personal finances are up to it. Your pledges are the only reason I can do this.

Last but by no means least, there is one thing that I can’t say enough to those of you who already pitch in: Thank you for your support! That includes not only existing patrons but all of you who take the time to offer up typo reports, factual corrections, and alternative perspectives in the comments and in emails. I remain as honored today that you consider me worth the effort as I was when all of this began twelve years ago. You remain, as ever, the best readers in the world.

See you next week!


95 Responses to Another Year Down, Many More to Go

  1. Dylan Holmes

    September 1, 2023 at 2:05 pm

    For what it’s worth, Cameron Kunzelman is currently writing a book on Magic The Gathering – might be a good resource to talk to for your Magic article.

    I think every single one of these is a good choice and the core of what I’d say you need to focus on (yes, you gotta do Final Fantasy VII and Fallout!)

    I think past the core you have, there are some interesting cult classics that sort of explore what action games/shooters could be, before they got sort of homogenized by Call of Duty et al: I’m thinking of Interstate ’76 (one of the most stylistic games ever and arguably the best soundtrack in all of gaming), MDK (certainly the straight-up weirdest third person shooter ever made), Blood (doubling down on weird weapons and considered by many to be the best of the Build engine games), but admittedly all of these are a bit afield of the core narrative focus of this blog. But if you need a hookup on the Interstate ’76 soundtrack (weirdly spread across 3 different releases) lemme know :)

    I also know that Theme Hospital is widely considered to have stood the test of time and be maybe Bullfrog’s peak, but I haven’t played it myself.

    Other than that, the only thing I can think of is Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey, which was a big deal at the time but I’ve never particularly understood what makes it special, so not sure it’s worth spending time on.

    • Jimmy Maher

      September 1, 2023 at 2:20 pm

      I already wrote Interstate ’76 in my last article. ;)

      I did look at MDK, but I don’t know that I have much to say about it. I might be the only person in the world to prefer the Bioware-developed MDK 2. I think I can write about it in that article.

      Blood is just *so* not in my wheelhouse. It’s probably best left to someone with more sympathy for its aesthetic.

      I looked at Theme Hospital to see how well it held up. I’m afraid my verdict was “not very well.” (This seems to a common theme with Bullfrog games, and not just from jaded old me.) It’s just way too hard to figure out what effect your actions are having on the simulation. I’ll write about it at some point, but probably in more of a Bullfrog roundup style piece.

      Oddworld is one to consider…

      • Sarah Walker

        September 1, 2023 at 3:43 pm

        That’s a shame about Theme Hospital, I’d have said it’s Bullfrog’s best game. And I have replayed it in recent years, so that’s not just nostalgia talking!

        As someone else noted, GTA was 1997, and in retrospect probably the most important game released that year. Carmageddon would be an interesting comparison point, extremely hyped and very well rated back in the day, but unlike GTA utterly unplayable under the controversy.

        I think you mentioned Worms in the past? Worms 2 was 1997.

        Unreal is not, being a 1998 game!

      • Dylan Holmes

        September 1, 2023 at 5:49 pm

        Oh man, I am behind on my reading and so happy Interstate ’76 got a writeup! Definitely a game that deserved to be remembered more than it is.

      • Vince

        September 2, 2023 at 5:10 am

        Oddworld took the “cinematic platform” genre of Prince of Persia/Another World/Flashback and turned it upside down by not having proper combat.

        Its nonviolent message is laced by a healthy dose of irony (you can still drive your enemies to their death in many gruesome ways) and quirkiness, it’s at the very least an original take on the genre and it should make for a good story.

  2. PlayHistory

    September 1, 2023 at 2:16 pm

    Looks like a strong slate! Certainly the sex one will be very interesting to go down, if controversial no matter what you do. Hasn’t stopped you before!

    There are two other 1997 games that I would think you should consider, even if this list is pretty thorough – Myth: The Fallen Lords and Oddworld: Abe’s Exodus. The former is interesting as a representation of the RTS format in its transitional, 3D state as well as an ambition by Bungie (obviously a very important developer) in exploring world-building themes. The latter is an extremely unique evolution on the stealth format with some extremely huge storytelling ambitions, like an extended universe that remains technically active today. (I will also be eager for you to tackle “The Class of 1998” for stealth games, or just Thief.)

    Another “in general” topic I’m looking forward to is your take on the move to 3D for major PC franchises which ultimately killed them (Ultima 9, King’s Quest 8, Prince of Persia 3D) versus those that succeeded. Consensus says that even just the flavor of the games were obliterated in the move, but I’d like to see you evaluate how fair that is.

    Keep it up and have a good time in the States!

    • Jimmy Maher

      September 1, 2023 at 2:25 pm

      Huh huh, huh huh… He said “go down.”

      Myth is one I’ve gone back and forth on. Will give it some (more) serious consideration. I’ve heard it’s very difficult…

      • Keith Palmer

        September 1, 2023 at 8:38 pm

        I got through Myth and its sequel (if “back in the day”), so I admit I’m surprised to “hear it’s very difficult” (although maybe that nudges towards “trying to grandstand through self-deprecation.”) I suppose I did get into a secret level, but not through it… Otherwise, I am interested to see you’re moving ahead on covering Final Fantasy VII, even if that’s a game I’ve never played myself… maybe it has something to do with “anticipating a perspective less long-immersed in more passively viewed visual entertainments adjacent to the game and its marketing category.”

    • Lisa H.

      September 1, 2023 at 6:13 pm

      You could add Escape from Monkey Island (2000) to that list of 3D games, at least so it seemed at the time that the series was dead.

      • Tyler Bartlett

        September 1, 2023 at 7:41 pm

        I think the failure of Escape from Monkey Island was more due to the commercial death of adventure games than the switch to 3D, so it’s not really a part of the same phenomenon as the other games mentioned.

        • Vince

          September 2, 2023 at 5:24 am

          The move to 3D managed to alienate many of the remaining traditional fans of the series though, while failing to lure new ones.

          There is no reason to believe that a traditional 2D + mouse game would have done much better commercially, but it would probably have aged better at least.

    • feldspar

      September 2, 2023 at 3:29 am

      I wouldn’t really call Myth it a “transitional” game in the overall history of the RTS genre, since although I think it’s an excellent game, unfortunately it seems like it was a dead-end in terms of game design which didn’t really influence future RTS titles outside of its own sequels. I mean mostly in that Myth was purely about making tactical decisions with only a limited number of soldiers at your disposal in highly simulationist combat, whereas as far as I know pretty much every RTS before and since Myth has focused more on elements like gathering resources, building a base, building factories to churn out as many soldiers as you can, etc, which is not really my cup of tea. Though the original games have aged very well it’s the #1 game I would kill to see a version of that took advantage of modern graphics hardware. Though nobody is really interested in doing that, least of all Bungie themselves.

      Other than that, very much looking forward to the 1997 articles.

  3. Ido Yehieli

    September 1, 2023 at 2:57 pm

    In terms of 1997 games that became huge franchises probably the biggest (franchise, eventually) is GTA.

    • Ido Yehieli

      September 1, 2023 at 3:02 pm

      And in the Peter Molyneux corner, we Dungoen Keeper – probably one of his last game to be considered a cult classic (black & white was a lot more controversial, from my vague memory at least).

      • Jimmy Maher

        September 1, 2023 at 5:21 pm

        In both cases, I think we can safely wait until later in the franchise and rope them all in together. (Dungeon Keeper 2 is almost more like Dungeon Keeper 2.0: the same game with better graphics and a more modern interface. Time being limited, I think that’s the one I’d rather play at length.)

        • Ido Yehieli

          September 2, 2023 at 8:42 am

          I think this makes a lot of sense for both!

    • Vince

      September 2, 2023 at 5:33 am

      The thing with GTA is that there is an abyss between the original 2D titles and GTA3, in terms of ambition, execution and impact on the industry at large.

      Early GTAs to me are more like weird curiosities, more notable for the controversial (for the times) subject matter than their merits as games.

      • Ido Yehieli

        September 2, 2023 at 8:41 am

        I think that’s exactly what makes the GTA serious an interesting subject historically :)

        I personally loved the first GTAs and don’t care much for 3 and beyond – it moved from being a quirky – what we would call “indie” – game full of whimsy to a AAA blockbuster with all that entails.

  4. David Rugge

    September 1, 2023 at 3:04 pm

    A small request for the articles about the adult games/online adult industry development articles: if/when screenshots are included, can you include some way to read the article with the pictures hidden so one could read the article in a public or semi-public space without annoying the people around them?

    I’m looking forward to your coverage of the original Fallout. It’s still one of my favorite games despite its many flaws.

  5. John

    September 1, 2023 at 3:10 pm

    I’m interested in the Japanese CRPG article. One of the things I occasionally find frustrating in the online discourse on CRPGs is that many people don’t seem to understand just how similar Japanese CRPGs were to non-Japanese CRPGs. My view is that the biggest differences between older Japanese CRPGs and their non-Japanese contemporaries were graphical and cosmetic. Regardless of their national origin, the games all tended to involve D&D-derived combat and random encounters every five steps. It’d be nice to have a well-researched article that I could point people to.

    • Gnoman

      September 1, 2023 at 5:07 pm

      My only issue with the notion is that it is a ludicrously huge topic. Even restricting the discussion to the Two Big Series that managed to dig out a presence in the West (and that precariously in the time period under discussion) and concentrating on ages instead of specific games would produce enough to justify 3-5 articles (8-bit (possibly split between Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest), 16-bit (Ditto), and FF7 (the natural endpoint that absolutely justifies being covered).

      This approach would also give an extremely bare-bones overview – there’s plenty that were influential on the course of development that stayed largely in Japan, but had influence in what we saw over here. Not to mention, of course, something like Sweet Home that inspired another genre entirely. I’m not sure the amount of space the Antiquarian is going to be able to devote to it is worth delving into it much beyond a very surface examination.

      That said, there’s a surprising amount of interconnection between this topic and the topic of “adult” games. Exploring the latter topic in detail is going to have to hit Japan a fair bit (that’s where a lot of such games were from, for complex reasons), and there’s a surprising amount of shared space.

      • Busca

        September 1, 2023 at 5:16 pm

        I agree the breadth and depth of the Japanese CRPG topic appear huge, but maybe Jimmy has a specific angle in mind.

        For what it’s worth, there is a guest post by “Alex” on the CRPG Addict blog (only the second one in 13 years, I think) about The Long Life of the Original “Wizardry” in Japan. It and its comment section might be potentially interesting for your article(s), Jimmy.

      • John

        September 1, 2023 at 8:27 pm

        Well, I don’t know about that. There’s informative and then there’s exhaustively detailed. An article need not be the latter in order to be the former.

      • Proto|FRONT

        October 1, 2023 at 1:58 am

        Just as important is the output of Nihon Falcom. They were pooping out metroidvanias before the term was even invented back when they were called Xanadu likes. They all stem from the western RPG tradition. JRPG’s in general you could say are just old school timewarped western RPG’s with a Japanese coat of paint. Others in this thread have already pointed this out.

    • Michael Russo

      September 1, 2023 at 5:29 pm

      I don’t know why, but for some reason when I think Japanese CRPG, I tend to think about just a huge increase in the dimensions of the world, of the volume of the story.. it seems like they took those things to a ridiculous level that gave kids months worth of a game to get through when they got home from school. I just played through Earthbound (the original lost NES cart remastered for Switch) and I can’t imagine how long that would have taken without any hints back in the day. (Then again as a kid I would have had more time to play it!) And the hours and hours of cutscenes in a modern FF or Xenoblade Chronicles is also a direct continuation from those older games. The YouTube channel “Bowl Of Lentils” has some good documentaries on these (and Japenese visual novels, which might glancingly get mentioned in the sex/romance topic.)

      • Jimmy Maher

        September 1, 2023 at 5:40 pm

        Yeah, I feel like a baffled tourist in the most exotic imaginable foreign land even when I play Final Fantasy VII. After about two hours, I decided the only way I could stand to continue was by hacking it to turn off the constant uninteresting and unrewarding random encounters. Luckily, that’s pretty easy to do.

        • Eriorg

          September 1, 2023 at 6:42 pm

          Jimmy, I’m curious: are there video games that you really loved but are neither American nor British? I ask because, as far as I can recall, your comments about Japanese (and French) games have always been lukewarm.

          (This isn’t a criticism! Obviously no one can enjoy all styles of video games, and there’s nothing wrong with that.)

          • Jimmy Maher

            September 2, 2023 at 9:03 am

            Refining the question to ask about games from outside the Anglosphere… the only one that leaps to mind is Dune I. This seems fairly appalling on the face of it, but I don’t think it’s down to xenophobia. The games I’m most personally passionate about tend to be text-heavy. Back in the day, localization wasn’t what it was today, which could lead to a lot of awkwardness — and awkward writing is something I’m very sensitive to — and sometimes flat-out broken puzzles. This isn’t a complete explanation — I do tend to find a lot of French games too fixated on aesthetics at the expense of rigorous design, and a lot of German games too complicated and fiddly for their own good — but it’s at least a partial one.

            The good news is that the day is coming when these issues become less prevalent for me, as gaming became more globalized. Adventure-game production, for example, largely upped stakes and moved to continental Europe after LucasArts gave up on the genre. And I do remember having a lot of fun with the German-made Gothic series…

        • Lisa H.

          September 1, 2023 at 11:17 pm

          I can understand the encounters feeling frustrating if there’s a lot of them when you’re just trying to run somewhere or get a feel for a map (and such games often have a “no encounters” item that is useful when you’re not actively trying to level up), but if the only way you can enjoy an RPG is by taking out the RPG… I feel like you don’t really want to be playing an RPG.

          • Jimmy Maher

            September 2, 2023 at 9:20 am

            There are still lots of set-piece encounters.

            • Lisa H.

              September 2, 2023 at 7:21 pm

              Which you won’t be able to survive if you haven’t done the leveling, so I guess you’re hacking your stats too. I’m not saying I never cheated a little by exploiting a bug that gave me a lot of gold or using a saved-game editor to restore mana that otherwise comes back only slowly or things like that, but I maintain that if you’re bypassing the core gameplay loop of a game, then maybe you don’t really want to be playing that sort of game. The only way I’d be able to get through a platformer is with invincibility (and even then I’d find it terribly frustrating)… so I just don’t play those kinds of games, and if I’m interested in their story I watch videos made by those who do enjoy the gameplay.

              • Jimmy Maher

                September 2, 2023 at 8:54 pm

                No other hacking. It’s not an uncommon way to play, as experience rewards are not huge for random encounters and you tend to be over-leveled anyway. Some ports even include the option out of the box. You seem to be very… exercised about this, and I’m not sure why. A game is best played in whatever way you find most fun. ;)

                • Lisa H.

                  September 2, 2023 at 10:26 pm

                  I’m not, I just don’t really get why you’re doing it at all at that point. Unless it’s just for research purposes.

                • Lhexa

                  September 4, 2023 at 6:27 am

                  For some reason I felt the urge to write an essay here. Well, I can put it up on my Dreamwidth account later.

                  One of the biggest gulfs between the early days of both console and computer games, and their mature contemporary state, is in what it means for a game to respect its player and its player’s time.

                  In the early days, a respectful game was above all a generous game, one in which you could lose yourself for days or weeks in what was, at the time, an expensive investment. Think of the hours spent wandering Zork: most of those hours are not fruitful, but you’re still rewarded by its very sense of place.

                  For some console games, the action-oriented ones, this generosity expressed itself as gameplay whose required skills were a joy to learn, paired with escalating challenges to test those skills. For console RPGs, however, the generosity expressed itself simply by rewarding investment with progress. If this seems too obvious to credit, that’s because you’re on the far side of the gulf.

                  The good games paced their rewards superbly. In particular, I think of the best of the early Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games, where merely fighting the monsters you saw while walking from destination to destination would make the boss fights challenging but surmountable. (In contrast, the bad JRPGs would require you to halt and grind repeatedly.) That mechanic, however, became a problem as technology developed. Early on, requiring you to level on numerous random encounters was the only way a console RPG could be long, generous in that regard. Data on cartridges was scarce; Dragon Warrior 4, a grand story with unmatched emotional impact (for the NES) and a tragic villain, took up 256kB. Soon enough, however, random encounters became a contrivance, and the RPGs went from long to bloated.

                  Personally, I still place Final Fantasy 7 on the side of being respectful, but there are factors no longer at play. One of the factors is its sheer spectacle, the game being unmatched in the quality of its animations. These no longer impress, but back then summoning one of the Bahamuts was a joy every time. (Its sequel, among its many other problems, placed too much priority on spectacle. The lengths of its summon animations were widely mocked.) However, with CDs on the scene, the technological need for random encounters as a way to lengthen a game was no longer there. It had become a trope, sometimes executed well, sometimes poorly, and its artifice would only become more apparent as time went on.

                  To return to the earlier point. The gulf exists because it became possible for something resembling this aforementioned generosity to be manufactured. For the larger companies, making a game long was a solved problem, a matter of effective management of large teams. Likewise, such games were full of rewards, and generous in that limited sense. But they were no longer respectful; some, like the Assassin’s Creed, were downright condescending in how little their rewards meant. Early on, you could love a game because it gave you forty hours’ worth of story and gameplay, in a time when few other games did. Now, no-one could love a game simply for being long.

                  What does it mean now for a game to be respectful of its players? I don’t know; I don’t have a general answer. Dark Souls is respectful, but in a profoundly different way than Super Mario Odyssey is respectful. I do, however, think that the emphasis on time remains: a respectful game is a game that respects its player’s time.

                  One more thing before I wrap up this silliness. Final Fantasy VII’s oft-derided huge-handed character models exist because, in the at-the-time undeveloped field of model animation, Square took inspiration from marionetting: outside of its combats, its characters are animated like puppets. This is not only an animation technique; it also becomes an explicit theme of the game. Even decades on, I don’t want to spoil you, so I’ll just say this: when you find Aeris again, take the scene very slowly. There’s something very interesting that happens before the part everyone remembers.

                • Matt

                  September 8, 2023 at 10:49 am

                  Interesting mini-essay Lhexa. Of course, seems to me like its worth noting that all this is also a function of not necessarily an idealized player free of context that stays the same across eras, but what we (or rather the game’s producers and planners) expect that player’s other life commitments and their alternative options to be. For a early teen child in the early era, without Youtube/TikTok, without internet, it’s perhaps different from what many of a typical player would be today. And so this changes over time, with the technological landscape, how more entertainment becomes cheaply available, and so the “opportunity cost” of playing more hours in a game (i.e. what else could you be doing instead?), and also the expected age range and lifestyle of players.

                  It’s quite a challenge in particular to reconcile the ideals of “openness” and “freedom”, which is that you can go anywhere you can see, do anything and make choices about everything – and which older players tend to expect more of – with managing to ensure that this time always includes something fun or exciting – naturally much easier to ensure in more linear and “directed” games. This leads to the sort of contemporary complaints about games that superficially seem large and open, but on closer inspection are found to have most of that large world simply be merely shepherding players between map markers that ask them to fetch and deliver miscellaneous items and spent a lot of time walking or using fast travel via menus. (Hideo Kojima’s ‘Death Stranding’ could be viewed as a veteran designer’s slightly sly “Well, OK guys, if this is what you really want” parody of this, as well as in earnest a modern high budget game).

                • Lhexa

                  September 20, 2023 at 7:31 pm

                  Thanks for the response, Matt. Looking back on it, my essay’s historical argument is too simplistic to endorse, but it least I was able to develop my ideas of “respect” and “generosity” in gaming a bit further.

                  I agree that there’s no idealized player that we can appeal to, and that’s a large part of why the value of early games like Final Fantasy VII requires extra effort to perceive nowadays. One thing that intrigues me is the possibility of further paradigm shifts in gaming; in fact, we seem to be in the midst of one now, with the concept of “games as services” emerging from the domain of MMOs to cover many other genres. I’m accustomed to thinking of games as discrete experiences, like books or movies, but there’s now quite a few people for whom (individual!) games are more like lifestyles.

                  Openness was revolutionary when it when first appeared in the console space, but in retrospect it was more of a technological innovation than a design innovation. Kinda like how Quake’s primary innovation was technology more than design, revolutionary though it felt at the time. As for freedom, the player can only do what the designers allow them to do, so freedom is a matter of designers not turning around and constraining what abilities previously they granted (for instance by having varied movement options but then placing lots of invisible walls), rather than granting them a large number of abilities in the first place. I’m not going anywhere with this, just rambling.

    • Horkthane

      September 1, 2023 at 11:33 pm

      Japanese RPGs, IMHO, started at the same place as American RPGs, and just evolved in a wildly different direction. I was most struck by this when I play Phantasy Star 1 and Dragon Warrior 1/Dragon Quest 1. They seemed like incredibly well made odes to early Ultimas, with a little bit of Wizardry thrown in. Especially with the gameplay loop of having to keep track of all the NPC dialog that eventually points you to the correct dungeon with the correct McGuffin that unlocks some arbitrary barrier, which eventually allows you to proceed. What really set them apart, although not terribly much in these early examples, was the fact that you didn’t create any characters but were instead given them. Often characters deeply intertwined in the plot, scarce as it may be in those 8-bit console days. This, at the time, minor difference eventually grew to be the defining feature of more story based, linear JRPGs versus their more open ended, American brethren.

      1997 is a good year to really drive this difference home, since it gave us Final Fantasy VII on the Japanese side, and Fallout on the American side. And they both really set the format for RPGs in their respective sides of the world for the next 10 years. With JRPGs leading you by the nose from cutscene to cutscene, and western RPGs being massively open ended, verging on being confusing about where to even go next.

      • Kevin McHugh

        September 2, 2023 at 12:52 am

        1997 also means we’d maybe get a little note about the Pokemon franchise which is incredibly far afield, but pretty fascinating for its (huge, immediate) success.

      • Matt

        September 8, 2023 at 9:30 am

        If I tell a simple story, some of those splits go quite deep and wide across the industry, and probably a fair bit older than those two standard-bearers. Japanese games seem to me to tend to descend a lot more from what was happening in their animation and toy industries (transforming robots, cool action figures), along with being focused on arcade and console platforms. Much less simply inspired by boardgames, or simpler toys (basic car or sports toys), or gamebooks and novels.

        So you get strong character designs, and because of the arcade and console influence less focus on exploration generally, and more focus on the game telling you exactly where to go and what to do next (because you need that information to keep flowing to keep you playing and putting yen in, and anyway the consoles are too limited in RAM and storage to be able to track too many choices). The strong character design focus also is a contrast with the “define your own character” or disembodied “God” approach of many Western games. (Compare Dragon Quest, which is lovingly drawn with iconic designs by one of Japan’s most popular mangaka, to Elder Scrolls that, fairly, I think you could say has generic fantasy art, and that the art is definitely not the reason why people find those games memorable and interesting.)

        For exploration, contrast the American/British platformers for example, where Mario or Sonic levels (with rare exception) pretty much tell you to go left-to-right, continuous smooth scrolling and there are no keys or locked doors or puzzles in the way, whereas the American/British platform adventure for the personal computers often charge you more to explore a space, learn a layout and collect things.

        For character design, contrast Herzog Zwei, where although its real time strategy you have an avatar in the game that is a particular sort-of-ship (which you can land and then use to shoot your enemies!), to Dune 2, which takes much more of the Civilization/Populous disembodied god-like commander approach (and exploration of the map is key). Consider as well how much Japan tended to avoid using the first-person perspective where the player has no particular avatar even as it became more technologically plausible (and so has virtually no presence in the now massively popular first-person shooting genre).

        This worked very well for Japanese producers for a long time – many Western attempts to do similar kinds of game designs came across as frankly amateurish (not helped by the different scale and professionalization of industry organisation between countries particularly Britain). But at a certain point, around the time when Microsoft entered the industry and Sony put serious money behind its Western studios, Western developers became able to combine solid action gameplay with more open and choice filled environments, more advanced graphical rendering techniques, and Hollywood style production values, and also bring the Western PC genres from PC to console, for many players these started to become more popular than many high budget Japanese designs.

        It does feel like there’s a bit of a critical renaissance for Japan though at the moment, as developers there begin to combine more of these open worlds and player choice and catchup with more advanced rendering engines with the traditional Japanese strengths in visual design and game feel (From Software or Nintendo for example, on their most recent big games).

  6. Bogdanov

    September 1, 2023 at 4:16 pm

    I support Dungeon Keeper here.

    In 1997 two games linked to the manga/anime huge franchises were released: GitS and Macross. It could be an opportunity to dive into this phenomenon.

    Another idea that sounds adult-oriented but is the complete opposite is The American Girls Premiere.

    • Bifo

      September 2, 2023 at 4:16 pm

      Macross predates 97 by at least a decade.

  7. Horkthane

    September 1, 2023 at 4:53 pm

    I donno if you have enough interest to put in the effort, but 1997 had a veritable explosion of RTS games trying to cash in during StarCraft’s long delayed release. I remember an issue of CGW that covered 40 different upcoming RTS releases. It’s quite a list full of also rans, cult classics, subgenre starters, and everything in between. I’m not sure any particular also-ran deserves the star treatment, but working the overall feel of a pre StarCraft RTS gold rush could be valuable for posterity.

    • Jimmy Maher

      September 1, 2023 at 5:29 pm

      Yeah, I think that would work best as background in a Starcraft article…

      • PlayHistory

        September 1, 2023 at 6:45 pm

        Probably the best move. There are a lot of wild off-roads (would LOVE to read a proper chronogaming on RTS) but it all inevitably comes back to about three or four formulas.

        I did some directed research into the reception in Korea so hit me up if you need that.

  8. Jack Brounstein

    September 1, 2023 at 5:05 pm

    It’s not a game I personally enjoy, but someone should mention GoldenEye—yes, it’s a console game, but in terms of cultural footprint it’s an incredibly notable FPS. (Possibly there’s an age gap here, with people a little too young for Doom being introduced to the genre through the N64.)

    I’ll also say that I’ve always enjoyed the IF write-ups, even just the capsule reviews like “The Neo-Classical Interactive Fiction of 1995”. There was probably something worth talking about before Anchorhead, Spider and Web, and Photopia in 1998, right? ;)

    • Sarah Walker

      September 1, 2023 at 5:24 pm

      Goldeneye never got a PC release, so it’s presumably off topic for TDA.

      An N64 FPS from 1997 that _might_ be worth mentioning is Turok. It got a (quite popular from memory) PC release, but it’s got quite a different design philosophy from other PC shooters of the era that would be an interesting contrast in a “round up” article (though I think Jedi Knight could justify an article by itself!).

    • Michael Russo

      September 1, 2023 at 5:24 pm

      While Jimmy has focused on PC games, the undeniable popularity and influence of Rare’s N64 games can’t be ignored, especially their more story-focused adventure games like Banjo-Kazooie, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, etc. Even if it’s not the focus of an article, I think looking around at how, over the years, story-telling in these kinds of games have grown and evolved is very much part of the focus of this site.

    • Jimmy Maher

      September 1, 2023 at 5:34 pm

      To be honest, the only IF from 1996 and 1997 that’s on my list of favorites is Babel and She’s Got a Thing for a Spring. I’ve had to accept that I tend to like fairly traditionalist games; most of the more forthrightly “literary” experiments strike me as rather a mismatch between engine/interface and design intent. I haven’t forgotten IF; I’ve actually been playing Anchorhead recently and admiring anew just how good it is. There will come a day when we get back to IF, I promise…

  9. Lisa H.

    September 1, 2023 at 6:14 pm

    I’m currently working on a two-parter about the Magic: The Gathering phenomenon, the first part being about the card game that upended the whole tabletop-gaming industry in the 1990s, the second about its digital adaptation, Sid Meier’s last game for MicroProse.

    It’s too far in the future (2018) for more than a mention to be on topic, I suppose, but there’s a popular online multiplayer version of Magic now called Arena.

  10. Lee

    September 1, 2023 at 6:48 pm

    I’m all for “the Full Monty.” Sex and violence have always provided major thrusts (heh heh, I said “thrusts”) to advance technology, and neither should be minimized. I say slap on a content warning and let ‘er rip.

  11. Leo Vellés

    September 1, 2023 at 6:52 pm

    1- I`m so happy to see that The Last Express is on your list, that game deserved so much succes that what it got……
    2: Go for the full monty!!!!
    3- Since I first played Maniac Mansion in my C64 back in 87, my gaming life was all about point & click adventures. 9 out of 10 games I played were from that genre. I didn`t care for the Dooms of Duke Nukems that so many others love. But three years ago I played for the first time the original Half Life and my whole take on games changed. I didn`t care for the outdated graphics because the game was so good. I finished it and right away I played Half Life 2 and HOLY MAMMA. That is, to this day, the best game I ever played. Playing it today, it just seems unbelievable that it was made in 2004. The graphics are still great. From that point on, I widened my interest in video games, which led me to the amazing Dead Space series…..
    What I meant with this rant is that I understand what you say about playing with Jedi Knight, so I am eagerly waiting for you to reach 1998 already!

    • Ahmet Elginöz

      September 2, 2023 at 8:51 pm

      Try Black Mesa, Half Life 1 with Half Life 2 source engine.

      • Leo Vellés

        September 3, 2023 at 12:36 pm

        Cool, gonna check it out. Thanks!

  12. Knurek

    September 1, 2023 at 7:34 pm

    Speaking of sex and Japanese CRPGs, how about an article on Visual Novels?
    (1996 being the year when the term was first used, but there are earlier notable, safe for work examples of the Japanese style text adventures)
    Would fit with the JRPG article theme too, given that developer of the other big JRPG series, Chunsoft, was also responsible for doing the first port of the text adventure genre to consoles, where they have enjoyed success far eclipsing Japanes PC game sales.

  13. Tyler Bartlett

    September 1, 2023 at 8:18 pm

    You probabbly don’t want to review another FF game given how much of a headache 7 seems to be giving you, but you’re a narrative guy, and Final Fantasy Tactics has one of the best, most involved narratives in the history of the medium. You’d be much more likely to enjoy it than FF7, but obviously 7 is the much more historically significant game, so if you only do 1, you chose correctly.

  14. Mike Russo

    September 1, 2023 at 8:34 pm

    (I’m a different Mike Russo from the Michael Russo above — the world is small!)

    Congrats on getting through another year! Hopefully it’s not too ungrateful to ask whether the Battlecruiser article I think you mentioned at the top of 1996 fell by the wayside, or if it still might emerge? I dimly remember some of that saga — my well-meaning grandparents actually bought me a copy as a gift, though of course I could never get it to run — but it’d be enjoyable to see a more complete writeup with the benefit of hindsight.

    Your 1997 list makes sense to me. It might be worth adding a couple of paragraphs on Outlaws, as part of the run-up to Jedi Knight? I replayed it a couple of years ago, and was surprised by how well it held up; it’s a straight Western genre pastiche so breaks no new narrative ground as such, but the stylish animated cutscene and pixel-art-y style, as well as the amazing soundtrack, make it feel quite surprisingly modern, while the increased lethality of gunshots to both you and the enemies on higher difficulty levels also presages where later “tactical shooter” games wound up going.

    I’d also agree that 1998 is the real annus mirabilis (and not just because I was 17 that year, much like that old chestnut about the golden age of rock and roll). Half Life! Baldur’s Gate! Thief! Starcraft! And Photopia, Spider and Web, and Anchorhead, which are among the trifecta of games that got me into IF — there are some worthwhile 1997 works of IF, but they can also probably be safely included as context-setting for the deeper dive in 98, I think.

    • Jimmy Maher

      September 2, 2023 at 9:12 am

      I’m afraid Battlecruiser did fall by the wayside. I was afraid it would just end up as mean-spirited snark. I’d rather write about something a little more positive, or at least influential. But if I ever do a gallery of tacky 1990s videogame advertisements — something I’ve actually thought about — *that* ad will definitely feature.

  15. Jazerus

    September 1, 2023 at 10:11 pm

    It’s not 1997 without Total Annihilation!

  16. Alianora La Canta

    September 1, 2023 at 10:26 pm

    It seems 1997 was quite the year for turn-based wargames! Not that I played any; very few of the games I’m seeing on the 1997 lists appear to have made it to my computer. At the time, I think I was mostly enjoying 1995- and 1996-vintage games instead.

    Callahan’s Crosstown Saloon might be worth a shout, if only for the puns.

    I will be interested to see what you make of the year. And on the bright side, you’ve probably got time to do a couple of the multi-part sequences I enjoy reading. (I don’t play the sort of games I think you will cover in the sex sequence, but it is good that they are getting their story told regardless).

    • Jimmy Maher

      September 2, 2023 at 9:16 am

      Callahan’s was a major disappointment for me, a rare case of adventure-game over-implementation. *Everything* is a hot spot, and a small fraction of the hot spots contain vital stuff, so you have to click on absolutely everything, reading buckets of text that’s trying very, very hard to be funny and usually isn’t. I found it exhausting.

      We’ll get back to Legend, but not this year, I think. ;)

  17. David Chong

    September 1, 2023 at 10:40 pm

    re: magic the gathering, I don’t know if you even intend to cover related territory, but the “compleat history of the magic the gathering metagame” articles by Bruno Dias over on cohost make for fascinating reading:

    • James Henderson

      January 20, 2024 at 5:58 am

      This looks amazing. Thank you!

  18. Michael

    September 2, 2023 at 1:03 am

    I know you’ve now moved on from 1996, but I’d love to see you do an article on The Neverhood which had a very fascinating development, and that delicious “critically acclaimed, commercially unsuccessful” reception. It’s also just full of charm while also committing some cardinal adventure game sins. Would be a fascinating article!

    • Jimmy Maher

      September 2, 2023 at 9:23 am

      I looked at it, but it was hard for me to get past its “cardinal adventure-game sins.” I was afraid I’d spend most of my time complaining about them, and I think we’ve had enough of that kind of article over the years…

  19. Alex

    September 2, 2023 at 5:28 am

    Speaking of Blood: Personally I would find it very interesting to read a long article about violence in video games. I personally couldn´t stand Blood, I don´t get the “joke” in the “Postal”-series and I cant´t touch the “Grand Theft Auto”-Series. But for sure there has always been a market for this kind of games and I would be interested in the reasons for it. Of course, this is such an incredible complex topic with tons of articles already written about it, but your specific angle would interest me. While I´m aware about your possibilities, I just wanted to give a suggestion.

    • Jimmy Maher

      September 2, 2023 at 9:28 am

      I did write about the subject within my “The Ratings Game” series, even to the point of surveying the academic literature on the subject. The literature is… inconclusive, affected by motivated reasoning on both sides of the debate and the sheer difficulty doing this sort of research in the real world. I have no taste for over-the-top violence myself, but, absent a smoking gun, so to speak, I’m willing to live and let live. I have considered doing an article about the Columbine shooting, when we get there, trying to do justice to both sides of the debate.

      • Leo Vellès

        September 2, 2023 at 2:16 pm

        A multi part Columbine shooting series by you would be very interesting Jimmy. And there is that indie game, I don’t remember the name, it was like Columbine RPG or something, that would be also interesting to read your take on it

  20. Vince

    September 2, 2023 at 6:02 am

    I only recently started going through the blog content (while having known of its existence for years) and I love it. Fantastic job!

    1998 has a solid claim for best year in gaming, for sure. Half-Life, Thief, Baldur’s Gate, Starcraft, Grim Fandango and Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil 2, Ocarina of Time in the console world, just the titles on top of my mind.

    But 1997, has its own gems, looking forward to read about Last Express, Riven, Fallout especially.

    • Jimmy Maher

      September 2, 2023 at 9:34 am

      Plus Tex Murphy: Overseer, Might and Magic VI, Sanitarium, Descent: Freespace, Commandos, Independence War, Caesar III, the first Nancy Drew game, Railroad Tycoon II, Fallout II, Quest for Glory V, Anchorhead, Spider and Web…

      From the big mainstream blockbusters to the cult classics, it’s an embarrassment of riches. And that’s not even considering the interesting failures, like Starship Titanic and King’s Quest: Mask of Eternity.

  21. Alex

    September 2, 2023 at 6:08 am

    Also, speaking of games worth mentioning: It is a bit of a stretch into the future, but “Vampire: Bloodlines” and “Gothic” are worth writing about for sure. Both games were quite ambitious for their time, predicted the future of world-designing the right way and hold up really well today (especially Gothic). They also got quite some reappraisal in the last few years for different, but justified reasons.

  22. RMM

    September 3, 2023 at 6:47 am

    Interesting that you pick the 2nd Broken Sword game as worthy of an article; I always thought it was just “more of the same, but less interesting” and I never thought there would be anything actually interesting to discuss about it.

    For the rest I would second someone’s suggestion of Oddworld, what an amazing and timeless piece of entertainment/art!

    • Jimmy Maher

      September 3, 2023 at 7:35 am

      You may be right. I enjoyed the second one for what it was, but it was a clear step down from the first. I’m not sure I have much to really say about it beyond that. Maybe I give its slot to Oddworld…

  23. Marco

    September 3, 2023 at 10:25 am

    Two suggestions:

    The Feeble Files: a game that did a lot right by adventure game standards – sophisticated world-building, long and twisting plot, strong graphics and great voice acting – but failed at the last by being far too difficult.

    Hexen 2: took the Quake engine, which as you rightly said was dull and dingy in the original game, and created a far more attractive set of environments, the Egyptian section in particular still holding up well.

    Thanks for all your continuing work…

  24. Sean Curtin

    September 3, 2023 at 1:50 pm

    Mention of Zork Nemesis brings to mind another contemporaneous failed cross-genre attempt at revitalizing a classic gaming series, that being Nemesis: The Wizardry Adventure. I don’t think you’ve touched on Wizardry since the article on III & IV nearly a decade ago; between DW Bradley’s Wizardry games and the subsequent fallow years and Japanese renaissance, there’s ample material for an article or two. (And of course, any article about Sir-Tech post-Wizardry 7 would inevitably end up as an article about Jagged Alliance, which might merit a full article on its own.)

    I agree that the Grand Theft Auto games prior to GTA3 don’t really merit revisiting in their own right, although they would fit into a retrospective on the fate of Psygnosis post-Lemmings and the legacy of the Amiga demoscene.

    As far as other influential 1997 releases go, the original Resident Evil saw its Windows port released that year.

    • Jimmy Maher

      September 4, 2023 at 5:01 am

      I’ll get back to Sir-Tech and Wizardry at some point. The time has just never seemed quite right. The Bradley games are rather drowned in that glut of similar-seeming early 1990s CRPGs that caused the genre to crash so badly. But, even if it’s not until we get to Wizardry 8, I’ll get the rest of the story told eventually…

      • PlayHistory

        September 20, 2023 at 8:30 pm

        May be worth doing an article about the fallow state of RPGs pre Fallout/Infinity Engine. That would be a good place to catch up on it rather than offloading the ENTIRE thing to a W8 article.

  25. eldomtom2

    September 3, 2023 at 7:15 pm

    Something that I think might be up your alley for 1998 is Ring: The Legend of the Nibelungen, a fascinating attempt at turning Wagner’s epic opera into a Myst-style adventure game. Especially notable is its surrealist sci-fi aesthetic, designed by French comic book artist Philippe Druillet. The official making of video gives a taste of its bizarre aesthetics and even more bizarre framing plot, as well as Druillet’s “interesting” interpretations of the Ring opera:

  26. Jason

    September 3, 2023 at 7:52 pm

    Wow, that’s crazy. I bought and played Microprose’s Magic: the Gathering without ever realizing Sid Meier had anything to do with it. I certainly knew his name by then, so I guess his involvement wasn’t promoted too heavily.

    • Jimmy Maher

      September 4, 2023 at 4:55 am

      Sid Meier actually left MicroProse about eight months before Magic shipped. He agreed to let his name be scrubbed from the finished game, even though he continued to consult on it part-time even after his departure. In return, he got to take all of his code and tools with him to his new studio Firaxis.

      • PlayHistory

        September 5, 2023 at 2:56 pm

        Have to chime in that technically Sid had not been part of Microprose since 1988 when he disentangled from the partnership. I don’t know whether the terms of his contract stipulated a ten year exclusive arrangement as a contractor or this was just the point he got fed up.

        • Jimmy Maher

          September 5, 2023 at 3:33 pm

          In his recent memoir, he states the latter.

  27. M. Casey

    September 3, 2023 at 9:08 pm

    The Sid Meier MtG game was a bit of an oddball.

    It was fun in itself, but you could also make all sorts of degenerate decks that would never fly under normal tournament rules, which added a bit of novelty.

    Given the addictive nature of MtG itself, it surprised me that Shandalar never really got popular. I suppose the graphics were pretty dated by comparison to other games of the era but that can’t be the only reason.

  28. Mateus Fedozzi

    September 5, 2023 at 12:20 am

    I was looking forward to your promised article about Her Interactive, but it seems you gave up on it. Also, will there ever be another article about encyclopedic multimedia CDs? I enjoyed that first one you did last year (or the year before?) more than anyone should.

    • Jimmy Maher

      September 5, 2023 at 5:34 am

      I just pushed the Her Interactive story back a bit, so that it can conclude more satisfyingly with the release of the first Nancy Drew game, marking the point when they finally figured out a solid niche for themselves. I actually visited the Strong Museum earlier this year and came back with some great material from the Her Interactive archive there.

      And I would like to do at least one more article on the Voyager catalog at some point, even though I fear it’s rather a niche interest even around here. It’s just a matter of setting up the old iMac again and finding the time to do some multimedia “reading.” Thanks for the nudge…

      • Martin

        September 6, 2023 at 2:42 am

        So having played 32 of the 33 iterations – just have #33 to play, I will be ready for Nancy Drew fron HER Interactive.

  29. Fuck David Cage

    September 5, 2023 at 3:52 am

    There were plenty of unique, creative games in 1997 which would make great inspirations for articles:

    Goldeneye: The definite console FPS, still incredibly fun–I recently got an N64 and beat it–and a perfect representation of the classic character James Bond.

    Final Fantasy 7: The best of the series, a very creative and complex R.P.G. with an interesting story, and an inspiration for the classic Planescape Torment. It did get a P.C. port at the time.

    M.D.K: One of the most unique, varied and creative games with endless surprises and an insane yet satisfying ending. It suffers, however from being a Shiny game–meaning that the gameplay is horribly tedious and the game feels like it takes a hundred years despite between two hours long.

    Grandia: A really great game with a lot of creativity and fun and amain character whose enthusiasm is infectous and encouraging. Grandia 2 is nearly perfect.

    Interstate ’76: A great car combat game with a great atmosphere and memorable character, another distinct and creative game.

    Fallout: Beginning of a classic series, has a lot detail and complex stories.

  30. Fuck David Cage

    September 5, 2023 at 3:55 am

    Fuck Diablo, a tedious button mashing game with very little substance and no fun. Zelda and Metroid are the definitive action RPGs and infinitely superior.

  31. David Cornelson

    September 6, 2023 at 2:38 pm

    1987: ifMud is born
    1998: Speed-IF is born
    2000-2001: IDM is published and distributed worldwide in a very visible Usenet campaign

    • David Cornelson

      September 6, 2023 at 2:39 pm

      Ugh ifMud: 1997

  32. fb

    September 7, 2023 at 10:12 pm

    The list sounds great – particularly glad to see MTG, The Last Express and Blade Runner. I’ll add a few more suggestions from 1997 to the pile, maybe something among these will spark your interest:

    – Little Big Adventure (1994) & Little Big Adventure II (1997): someone mentioned French games earlier in the comments, this might be a series worth covering in the context of its second release that year.

    – I-War (aka Independence War): a space flight simulator that broke from the Wing-Commander-mold by placing its emphasis on larger ships and somewhat realistic flight physics.

    – Ecstatica (1994) & Ecstatica II (1997): I may have suggested this before, a series that I still find fascinating after all these years, tonally as well as technically in its rendering approach.

    – Outlaws: LucasArts’ somber animated-film-style foray into the FPS genre.

    – NetStorm: Islands At War: a novel RTS/puzzle hybrid that aimed at the nascent multiplayer market, but failed; I remember loving the look & feel of it back then.

    And +1 for Total Annihilation and MDK, which have been suggested here previously.

    Looking forward to 1997!

  33. Gwydden

    September 8, 2023 at 5:39 pm

    Looking forward to Age of Empires and Fallout, specially. First PC game I ever played was AoE2, but I tried the AoE1 remake recently and it holds up surprisingly well, despite being mostly rendered obsolete by AoE2 a couple years after it came out.

  34. Will Aickman

    September 15, 2023 at 5:04 pm

    I see somebody’s already suggested Total Annihilation, so I’ll second that not simply because it’s a good stepping-stone in the RTS scene on the way to Starcraft but also because it would allow the blog to “catch up” with Ron Gilbert in his post-LucasArts career, which might prove especially interesting in the run-up to your Curse of Monkey Island piece.

  35. Busca

    September 20, 2023 at 7:52 pm

    Jimmy, you’ve mentioned a couple times you worked in a record store for a while and your interest in and love for music shows in the many links to music videos and other references to that whole world you’ve made throughout the blog.

    So I was wondering: would you be interested to write something about music and/in games? Maybe some thoughts on certain iconic tunes up to this (or any other) point in (the blog) time(line), the evolution of game soundtracks and their importance for certain gameplay experiences, technical developments, potentially interesting histories behind any of them, …? If you want to tie it to 1997 and assuming you will indeed cover Final Fantasy VII, you could e.g. use Nobuo Uematsu’s score as an occasion to dive into the matter and look back on its history.

    I still find it impressive what people like Rob Hubbard, Martin Galway or Chris Hülsbeck managed to squeeze out of the SID on the C64 and I’m sure hearing e.g. the title music of Defender of the Crown or the soundtrack of Cryo’s Dune brings misty eyes and nostalgic memories to more than a few persons (not saying these should necessarily be your subject, just citing some examples that come to mind).

    • Jimmy Maher

      September 21, 2023 at 3:10 pm

      I think it would be tough to avoid having such a piece turn into just a list of “great game music.” I try to avoid such “list” articles; the Internet has way too many of them already. The other problem is that, to be frank, I’m not sure I’ve heard a lot of game music I would personally label great. I appreciate the value of a good soundtrack, but music that fits that bill isn’t always so exciting for active listening. For me, anyway.

      I have had some ideas for other music-related pieces over the years. I thought about doing something on the various rock musicians who dabbled in CD-ROM during the multimedia boom of the 1990s. More ambitiously, I’ve thought about doing a series on the synthesizer, first as a standalone instrument and then in chip form in computers. But that could easily derail my usual coverage for several months. Extended series, especially ones not tied to directly to games, tend to be a bit polarizing. This doesn’t mean I won’t ever do one again, but I have to be judicious, as they tend to send the Patreon curve arcing in the wrong direction. ;)

  36. ZUrlocker

    October 15, 2023 at 12:09 am

    I enjoyed your coverage of The Last Express, which I think is a hugely important game, even if it was too little too late to achieve much commercial success. I look forward to coverage of some of the big games from this era including Bladerunner, Broken Sword 2, Riven, the Activision Zorks etc. These are mostly games I did not get to play and I’m keen to get your analysis of what was worthwhile and what wasn’t.
    I understand the thinking behind an article on the adult trend, but not sure I want to read too much in that area. From a business perspective it might be interesting to see how Sierra and others chase these trends, but beyond that, less is more.


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