1998 Will Be Great

31 May

Hi, folks!

I don’t have an article for you this week, but, rather than leave you hanging with nothing whatsoever to read, I thought I would post a little preview of what’s coming over the next year or so. Note that this “year” of mine applies to both real time and to the historical timeline, which have become largely one and the same these days. I do still have one 1997 article in the pipeline, on Activision’s last two graphical Zork games. I’ve also pushed a couple of topics that were originally earmarked for 1997 into 1998.

So, here’s what’s coming, with some further clarifications wherever it feels appropriate. If you like to be totally surprised by each new article, now is the time to stop reading. If, on the other hand, you played a role in any of the following, or know someone who did, or have any other kind of research tips or inside information to share, by all means get in touch via email, Mastodon, or just in the comments below.

  • The Journeyman Project trilogy. I nearly passed these over, but on a whim I decided to try the 1997 remake of the first game, and was surprised how much I enjoyed it. This prompted me to play Buried in Time and Legacy of Time as well. To whatever extent these can be considered Myst clones, they stand now as my favorites in the sub-genre.
  • Starcraft.
  • Douglas Adams in the 1990s and beyond, including Starship Titanic. He filled quite a lot in the early years of this blog, and, although he wasn’t such a high-profile presence in games and computing after the 1980s, he deserves to have his story finished.
  • Tex Murphy: Overseer.
  • Might and Magic VI.
  • Sanitarium and Nightlong: Union City Conspiracy. Yes, this is an odd couple. These two games are linked only in being early harbingers of where adventure games would go as their AAA commercial heyday faded into the past. The budgets would get smaller, the list prices would decrease, and most of the studios still making them would be located in Europe rather than North America (although this last is only true of one of this particular pair). None of these changes strikes me as necessarily a bad thing. On the contrary, they often gave space for design to come to the fore again.
  • The X-Files. As I promised a reader recently in the comments section, this is also a good chance to talk about the television show, one of the most indelibly 1990s of all media creations. (Wasn’t it nice when our most prominent conspiracy theories revolved around aliens from outer space?)
  • The Windows 98 launch.
  • Grim Fandango.
  • The casual-sports-game phenomenon. Did you know that schlocky little Deer Hunter made way, way more money for its creator than Starcraft or Half-Life or any other iconic late-1990s mega-hit you care to name? I’ve always found these incongruities between gaming history as it’s remembered by the hardcore crowd and the reality on the ground at the time to be fascinating.
  • Game shows. Most years, I allow myself one significant departure from the game-by-game brief, and I think this will be this year’s. It’s a topic I’ve been mulling over for a long time now, given that television game shows were the first “video” games of all in a sense. There’s probably two or three articles here, tying in the end back into 1990s CD-ROMs like Jeopardy! and the You Don’t Know Jack series — the latter of which is another of those hidden moneyspinners of the era, that you would barely know existed from reading Computer Gaming World and the like.
  • Interactive fiction. I never intended to stop writing about text adventures; it’s just that I haven’t had quite enough to say about them in the last few years to make a good article. Now, however, we’ve come to the year of Anchorhead, Spider and Web, and Photopia. In terms of seminal works, 1998 is arguably the interactive fiction community’s biggest single year of all.
  • Half-Life.
  • The first two Oddworld games, which I think are best discussed as a unit.
  • Railroad Tycoon II. (My lord, have I gotten addicted to this game…)
  • Fallout 1 and 2. Again, I think this pair can be most profitably discussed together. And waiting until this point lets me better tie them into the CRPG Renaissance that was cemented by Baldur’s Gate.
  • The downfall of TSR and its purchase by Wizards of the Coast. Another long-running story that deserves a proper conclusion, even if it is more computer-game adjacent than specific.
  • The aforementioned Baldur’s Gate.
  • Speaking of conclusions to long-running stories: the strange and rather anticlimactic end of Ken and Roberta Williams’s Sierra, including coverage of King’s Quest: Mask of Eternity and Quest for Glory V.
  • Boulder Dash and its successors. Yes, you read that right. I spent a lot of time with Boulder Dash as a kid on my Commodore 64, and I think it deserves an article, however belated. I don’t know why I didn’t write one back in the day, but better late than never. I already circled back to pick up Lode Runner
  • Thief.

And now to explain why a couple of topics are not on this list. I plan to discuss the two Freespace games as a unit later. And I haven’t forgotten Her Interactive and Nancy Drew; I’m just waiting for the right place to tell that story. I’d like to end it on a triumphant note, and the first Nancy Drew game is still a little rough around the edges.

I know that there’s a (small) minority of you who would like to see more coverage of Voyager Interactive. I’m afraid I just haven’t found the later discs as compelling as I did the early ones, so I think I’m going to table that topic. I’m sorry!

Of course, I’m always eager to read your thoughts on what you find most (and, if you like, least) appealing from the list above and what other topics you’d like to see covered. I can’t promise to follow up on all of your suggestions — I have to be guided as well by the kinds of games I most enjoy, by what I find most interesting in general, and simply by what I think would yield a readable article — but many of them have led me in the past to subjects I never would have thought to write about on my own. (In fact, a couple of these can be seen on the list above…)

If you’re a regular reader and you haven’t yet become a supporter, please do give it some thought if your financial circumstances permit. I depend on all of you to keep writing and to keep this site ad-free.

Most of all, though, thank you for being the best readers in the world! I’ll have a proper new article for you next week, and the 1997 ebook should be coming along in the relatively near future.

Did you enjoy this article? If so, please think about pitching in to help me make many more like it. You can pledge any amount you like.


80 Responses to 1998 Will Be Great

  1. Mateus Fedozzi

    May 31, 2024 at 4:07 pm

    “I’ve always found these incongruities between gaming history as it’s remembered by the hardcore crowd and the reality on the ground at the time to be fascinating.”

    Actually, it’s still happening. How much money does Roblox make, for instance? What about the current trend of romance FMVs among the Chinese public? No one in the “serious game news business” talks about these successes, which print money with more ferocity than the best-selling AAA game ever could.

    “I’m afraid I just haven’t found the later discs as compelling as I did the early ones, so I think I’m going to table that topic.”

    Oh, man… =(

    “Of course, I’m always eager to read your thoughts on what you find most (and, if you like, least) appealing from the list above and what other topics you’d like to see covered.”

    Metal Gear will have to receive its own article someday, even if it’s not a PC game. It’s just too important to the narrative-driven side of gaming creation, evolution, art and business. It may have been a dead end as far as all of these aspects are concerned, but it’s still a dead end that happens to be so because nobody DARED to move it forward.

    • Jack Brounstein

      May 31, 2024 at 6:40 pm

      I’m going to second Metal Gear Solid, a game that has a lot of incredibly important ideas on its mind while also being occasionally incredibly silly. I just replayed it, and while all of the common complaints about it are true—it’s too talky, it’s tonally inconsistent, the gender politics are weird—I also wouldn’t change a moment of it. (Well, maybe the boring climb up the comm tower with infinite spawning guards.)

      And, looking ahead, Metal Gear Solid 2‘s insane meta shenanigans need to be explored.

      • Dylan

        June 1, 2024 at 9:58 pm

        I would third this – the PC port is admittedly barebones, but in gaming history it looks large enough that it should be included, and it’s a very rich text.

        • Jimmy Maher

          June 2, 2024 at 8:30 am

          I’ll add it to my to-play list for 1999, when the upgraded version came out. The added “level of difficulty for beginners” sounds like just the ticket for me!

          • Sniffnoy

            June 2, 2024 at 6:18 pm

            Huh, I was about to give the standard warning about how the rerelease “Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes” makes a lot of changes to the script that a lot of people don’t like, but I see you’re actually talking about an upgraded version from before “Twin Snakes”!

          • patziert

            June 3, 2024 at 1:04 am

            It actually makes a lot of sense covering it for 1998 as that is the year of the stealth revolution. Metal Gear Solid, Thief and the Playstation game Tenchu were the first 3D-stealth games and arguably the ones that turned stealth into a genre and turned it into a common gameplay element. Before that there were only a small handfull of proto-stealth games in the 80s and basically none at all during the early 90s.

            This video gives a nice overview, <a href=""this one, too. Oddworld sort of ties into this as well, with the game having a then unusual significant stealth component. The author of the latter video more or lesscounts it as an member of the genre and Abe’s Odyssey as the only wxample of it between Metal Gear Solid’s 1990 MSX predecessor and 1998. To round it up Commandos also released in 1998, which kinda launched it’s own little subgenre of real-time stealth tactics followed by the likes of Desperados and Shodow Tactis/Gambit. All these games have directly influenced later titles and would make for a nice series.

          • BD

            June 3, 2024 at 1:27 pm

            I’ll third the Metal Gear Series (where it makes sense), and would love to see what you think of this ludonarrative mechanic in most of Kojima’s games: You have the option of playing with “lethal” or “non-lethal” weapons, the latter being much less effective..

            So its a choice of “do you want to shed (pixel) blood on screen needlessly, or do you want an easier time making it through the game.”

  2. Aaron A. Reed

    May 31, 2024 at 4:08 pm

    Can’t wait to read most of these! Wow, I haven’t thought about The Journeyman Project in forever…

  3. Matt Campbell

    May 31, 2024 at 4:10 pm

    I’m especially curious to learn more about Grim Fandango, because I previously listened to a talk about the development of the GrimE engine. I used to be a big fan of the Lua programming language, and Grim Fandango was one of the earliest projects to use Lua for game scripting. Bret Mogilefsky, the lead engine developer for that game, gave a talk at the 2005 Lua Workshop called “How Lua Brought the Dead to Life”. The slides from that talk are still available here:

    A recording of the talk was freely available online for many years, and that’s how I got to listen to it; I wasn’t there in person. It disappeared from its original host, but I happened to have a local copy, so I’ve put it on my web server here:

    Anyway, having already learned about the history of the engine, I’ll be curious to learn more about the game itself.

    • Jimmy Maher

      May 31, 2024 at 6:28 pm

      Downloaded. Thanks!

  4. Ido Yehieli

    May 31, 2024 at 4:12 pm

    As I was 14 or 15 when most of these were released (i.e. gaming’s golden age) you’re covering a lot of my “all time favourites”! Looking forward to the fallouts and baldur’s gate. I played a ton of starcraft (and its pre/successors as well), but as one of the creators has already covered a lot of its rocky development history (one of the entries: I’m expecting to learn less new info from that one (but am eager to be positively surprised!)

  5. lee

    May 31, 2024 at 4:28 pm

    Ahhh, Freespace and Freespace 2. The absolute zenith of the combat flight simulator—a zenith that has yet to be surpassed. (And, no, I don’t have any confidence in Star Citizen/Squadron 42 hitting anywhere near that high water mark.)

    • John

      May 31, 2024 at 5:25 pm

      Freespace is the Great White Whale of my gaming backlog. Fortunately, I’m not nearly as obsessed as Captain Ahab. I’ve been intermittently trying and failing to finish Freespace 1 for years. There’s this one mission about a third of the way through that I have yet to beat because for a long time I completely misunderstood what it meant for an enemy capital ship to be disabled and how the game intended for me to disable it. To this day I am unsure whether the game is at fault or I am. Neither the in-game tutorials nor the manual cover the subject properly, yet none of the people I’ve talked to who played the game back in the 90s seem to have had the same kind of trouble I did. Very frustrating.

      It’s been hard for me to reconcile the near-universal praise I hear for Freespace 2 with my admittedly embittered impressions of Freespace 1. I think of myself as a space-sim fan, mostly due to my enthusiasm for Tie Fighter and Privateer, but about the nicest thing I can find to say about Freespace 1 is that it’s mechanically competent. I don’t think too much of either the mission design or the narrative. I can only assume that Volition really upped their game for Freespace 2, possibly in much the same way that LucasArts did going from X-Wing to Tie Fighter. I’d really like to play Freespace 2, but I just can’t bring myself to do it before I finish Freespace 1.

      • Jimmy Maher

        May 31, 2024 at 6:38 pm

        Freespace 1 seems to have glitches when run natively on more recent versions of Windows. I couldn’t finish the last mission of the tutorial, which requires you to destroy a certain number of enemy ships in a certain amount of time, even on the lowest difficulty. I’m not great at action games, but this was ridiculous! Finally I tried it on a virtual machine in VirtualBox, and it was the cakewalk it was intended to be. And this was the current version…

        • John

          May 31, 2024 at 10:02 pm

          I’ve been playing on Linux. I used to play the GOG version with Wine, but kindly internet persons pointed me towards the Knossos mod manager for Freespace Open, the open-source version of the Freespace 2 engine. One of the available mods is just Freespace 1. I have to say it’s been a much smoother (and often prettier) experience than playing the original game. The textures in the original game were so blurry that it was hard to tell what some of the alien spaceships actually looked like.

          • Jimmy Maher

            June 1, 2024 at 8:51 am

            Yeah… the history angle means I normally try to play the games in their original form. I have made exceptions, such as with Final Fantasy VII (a game I was never going to get through otherwise), but I try to make them as rare as possible.

      • lee

        June 7, 2024 at 4:29 pm

        FS2 is definitely a leap forward in mission design and mission complexity. The core gameplay remains mostly unchanged and many of the mechanisms are more or less the same between FS1 and FS2—where the sequel vastly surpasses the original is in just how well-written the story is, and how cohesive the missions themselves are to that story. It’s a tightly knit bundle and each bit reinforces each other bit.

        Plus, there are a few incredible standout missions that showed me things I’d never seen done before in a space combat sim. If you ever get around to FS2, you’ll know ’em when you see ’em.


  6. Whomever

    May 31, 2024 at 5:07 pm

    I’m quite interested in Deer Hunter. While I agree it was ignored by hard core gamers, I remember reading a bunch in more mainstream media about how big it was, and the impression I got at the time was it was doing a lot of marketing in non-traditional places to people who otherwise didn’t buy games.

    • Jimmy Maher

      May 31, 2024 at 6:33 pm

      Yes, they got the game into Wal-Marts all over the United States, where it was often displayed in or near the hunting and fishing sections or right at the checkout counter. It helped that it was sold at a low price point, so it was an easy impulse buy. Reportedly many a wife said, “Oh, John might like that,” and dropped it into her cart on her weekly shopping trip. (Sorry for the gender stereotypes, but I guess they are stereotypes for a reason…)

      • Captain Kal

        June 1, 2024 at 7:25 pm

        Back in the 00’s I read some articles in magazines, about how this Wal-Mart practice, affected videogame packaging.

        Boxes were shrunk in size (and then replaced by DVD cases), no more extra “feelies”, you were lucky to get a flimsy manual!!!!

        • fform

          June 2, 2024 at 4:43 pm

          That wasn’t quite so much Wal-Mart specifically, but the death of dedicated computer and game software stores in favor of big box stores in general. I’d blame Best Buy and Circuit City wanting to use existing racks (and economize on space), as well as always cheap game production corps trying to squeeze out the pennies. The internet was the final nail.

          When it comes to Deer Hunter, part of the criticism was that it was a very light, very surface level game that was just not enjoyable or interesting. What the critics missed, myself included, was that it was an early casual game of the sort you could just load up, waste some time, and leave.

  7. Marco

    May 31, 2024 at 5:28 pm

    I’m glad you’ve come around to The Journeyman Project! One of the most underrated series of adventure games in my view.

    And oh, Tex Murphy: Overseer – the game that would have been great were it not almost impossible to play, because it takes multiple extra downloads even to get started and then crashes on every puzzle…

  8. tacitgreg

    May 31, 2024 at 7:17 pm

    I am waiting especially for these:
    The Windows 98 launch.
    Fallout 1 and 2.
    The aforementioned Baldur’s Gate.
    Speaking of conclusions to long-running stories: the strange and rather anticlimactic end of Ken and Roberta Williams’s Sierra, including coverage of King’s Quest: Mask of Eternity and Quest for Glory V.
    Boulder Dash and its successors.

    With special points for Boulder Dash, probably the first game I’ve played on computer, namely Atari 8-bit. Half of the day in the late 80-ties in communist Poland.

  9. Ahab

    May 31, 2024 at 7:23 pm

    Any chance of comparing/contrasting Journeyman Project Turbo! (or non-Turbo!) with Pegasus Prime? I feel like this is a situation where the original game differs enough to be worth playing, but the series has effectively removed it from its own timeline by a temporal distortion wave of its own, thanks to Pegasus Prime being easier to emulate (and also better). But this makes the officially supported series experience anachronistic; now the second game in the series feels like a technological step down instead of a big one forward, and some of the concepts introduced by the later game get retconned into Pegasus Prime, making it look like they were always part of the series.

    • Jimmy Maher

      June 1, 2024 at 9:05 am

      It is kind of hilarious that all the chronology of this time-travel series is so confused, isn’t it? I did try the original Journeyman years ago, bounced off it fairly quickly, and wrote off the series. So, I have some context for that already. It was the remake that finally drew me in, plus fond memories of wandering around Leonardo da Vince’s study in the second game 20 years ago.

      • Ross

        June 2, 2024 at 2:42 am

        The Journeyman Project series reflects a lot of the way adventure games evolved over that period too, with the first one being full of cruel and arbitrary death, a scoring system that was largely superfluous and arbitrary, and awkward arcade sequences, BUT also having legitimate multiple paths. The second one drops the arcade sequences and I think the scoring and time limits, and tones deaths down to mostly-reasonable, and the third one removes player death altogether and adds lot of quality-of-life improvements. The UX also simplifies a great deal with each iteration.

    • Ross

      June 2, 2024 at 2:36 am

      Wait, I had no idea Pegasus Prime was easier to emulate (I was out of the loop for a very long time). I thought it was only released for the pre-OSX Mac, which is not the friendliest of systems to emulation.
      I might need to go try it out myself.

      • Ahab

        June 3, 2024 at 3:51 pm

        Pegasus Prime was added to ScummVM in 2012 or so. Technically it isn’t being emulated, but this sidesteps much of the difficulty with emulating early Windows or Mac systems.

        The GOG trilogy has a “director’s cut” of Pegasus Prime that adds some extra content that didn’t exist in the 1997 Mac version. Mainly some Sewer Shark-style playable FMV sequences which if I’m not mistaken were intended to be additions to the unfinished PS1 port. So in a way, the “first” game in the series as it exists today came out in 2013.

  10. Feldspar

    May 31, 2024 at 7:33 pm

    Really excited about 1998, seems like it’s always considered a legendary year for games and that’s a huge list you are planning to cover.

    Third-ing that I’m glad to see you cover the Journeyman games, they must have a lot of fans here. For historical purposes, you should consider checking out the first Journeyman game in its original form, since the remake Pegasus Prime is a fairly different game that greatly expands on the original.

    As far as Thief, I hope you are looking at the original two games by Looking Glass as a pair, since although Thief: The Dark Project established the series it puts a weird emphasis on zombie/monster hunting for much of the game and it feels like it wasn’t until Thief II that they made a game that was fully committed to the idea of being a thief.

    • Jimmy Maher

      May 31, 2024 at 8:47 pm

      Yes, this was exactly my experience with Thief 1. I loved the sneaking and ersatz Italian Renaissance feel of the first mission. Then in the second I was suddenly battling a bunch of mindless zombies in a bunch of empty caverns, like in a million other shooters. It may indeed be best to combine the two games in one article. We’ll see.

      • Jason Dyer

        June 1, 2024 at 4:33 am

        Battling, in Thief? Huh.

        (I mean, I guess they give you the weapons, but I always tried to avoid that, especially because fighting undead is annoying. I never tried for maximum-ghost behavior where you don’t even do any knockouts like some people but it seems like that might make for a fun replay.)

        I do think it’s fair to say the games are stronger with human-like opponents, although one of my favorite sets of fan missions was one which went all-in on “ok, let’s treat the thief like one from AD&D rather than the game Thief” and ended it up being brilliant. It has to have the gameplay oriented towards that, though.

        • Feldspar

          June 1, 2024 at 5:36 am

          While you can sneak past zombies and other monsters, I think it’s more the change in tone which feels out of place and misleading, especially for people who played it after Thief 2 and 3 or years after release when it gained the reputation of being one of the first 3D stealth games. For a game called Thief the levels where you are sneaking into a mansion or whatever with human guards (what you’d expect to be doing in such a game) are weirdly few.
          Even at the time of release it seems this was a common criticism of the game which led Looking Glass to base Thief II almost entirely on more conventional thieving. Though some people do prefer the first game, and the creepy “Pagan” atmosphere does have its merits especially in levels like The Sword.

          • Jason Dyer

            June 1, 2024 at 4:10 pm

            If I remember correctly all the Thief Gold additions were human levels, which is the version I played, so it didn’t feel so imbalanced.

            I imagine Jimmy played classic.

      • PlayHistory

        June 1, 2024 at 4:21 pm

        My personal suggestion would be to cover the original Thief as intended then perhaps tackle System Shock 2 and Thief II together. Most of the bones of System Shock 2’s feel are largely in Thief and its predecessor.

        While an interesting game in showing how much can change in a half-decade, I consider it more of a reaction to the environment of first-person games rather than a bold new step on its own. Have to wait for Deus Ex for that.

        • Vince

          June 5, 2024 at 7:15 am

          Unpopular opinion maybe, but I like the original Thief more than the sequel (and the original release over “Gold”, which I find not as well paced, boy is that thieves guild level confusing).

          The variety in levels in the original to me makes it seem more like an adventure, while the more focused gameplay in the sequel makes it feel more like a simulation.

          I also like the lighter emphasis on steampunk and the story in general in the first; unfortunately it ends with the worst-designed levels, similarly to Half-Life.

          Both 1and 2 are masterpieces, though. I must have seen the cuscenes a dozen of times, such a unique style.

          I would argue for the first to have his separate entry, it is definitely deserving it as a trailblazer game.

    • xxx

      June 5, 2024 at 4:16 am

      People have always said that the weakness of the first Thief was the “monster-filled ruins” levels. I must be some sort of weird mutant, though, because I actually enjoyed them. They still had the same rules as the human levels — explore, find loot, don’t be spotted — and the creepy atmosphere was on point, especially with the great sound design. (I still vividly remember the musical theme of the Horn, and the undead warriors hissing “flames, nothing but flames…” under their breath.)

      I think there are two problems. One is that a lot of people approached it the wrong way — “monsters, let’s kill them!” instead of “here are more things to sneak past.” The other is that it’s a big change of tone from the urban exploration, so someone for whom the “adventure archaeology” theme doesn’t work won’t have a good time. I enjoyed them both, and kind of missed the variation in tone in Thief 2.

      • Mike Duncan

        June 9, 2024 at 10:17 pm

        I never experienced this disconnect either. I loved the mix. The City is one of my favorite gaming settings.

        The second mission is the jailbreak, a great, tense vertical level, and only the first part of it has shambling – it’s the third mission, Bonehoard, that goes full undead-tomb-exploration.

        My favorite gaming experience ever is standing in the tiny foyer of the haunted cathedral in the original TDK version – hearing the shuffling and clanking of the undead behind the doors – JOIN US… JOIN US NOW – and trying to Sir Robin my way right back out the entrance thirty seconds into the mission. Garrett has far more backbone and cockiness than me.

  11. Leo Vellés

    May 31, 2024 at 8:34 pm

    Can`t wait to read your take on Half Life (and, eventually, Half Life 2), the games that made me (who, until these games were realeased, played almost exclusively point & click adventures) like the FPS genre (alongside the original Medal of Honor).
    And I must be wrong, but I think that you never made a post about the Resident Evil games (I believe the first one wasn`t released on PC, but the second one did). They are a great part of gaming history and the remakes that Capcom launched of the first four games are excellent.

    • Jimmy Maher

      May 31, 2024 at 8:52 pm

      I tried to play the first Resident Evil some time ago; it actually was released for Windows. But to be honest, I found it so ludicrous that I just moved on. I’d just end up spending 5000 words making fun of it, and that’s not really the kind of article I prefer to write.

      Of course, it’s very possible that the series matured a bit later on. Maybe we’ll have occasion to visit it at some point…

      • Leo Vellés

        May 31, 2024 at 9:16 pm

        I never played the first one (the original, the remake I did), but I think you should check RE2, it is a way better game

  12. PS_Garak

    May 31, 2024 at 8:58 pm

    I absolutely adore Railroad Tycoon 2, and I feel like it has fallen by the wayside as time has passed by. I go back to it every few years and I’m still delighted by how crunchy and complex it is.

    • Jimmy Maher

      May 31, 2024 at 9:04 pm

      My sentiments exactly. I’m surprised it isn’t more widely remembered as a strategy classic.

  13. Michael

    May 31, 2024 at 9:40 pm

    Well, with “Baldur’s Gate” you’ll finally come to a game that I still play on a weekly (or more) basis. Honestly, I’m a bit nervous – having seen the (over-)reactions of some readers to what seem to be highly fair and balanced discussions of their favorite games, now my partiality will be put to the test. Gulp!
    Also sorry to hear that there’s nothing more to say about Voyager Interactive discs. I never played them myself, but your previous discussions of them made them sound very interesting.

    • Jimmy Maher

      June 1, 2024 at 9:13 am

      I’m pretty positively disposed toward Baldur’s Gate, if it helps. ;) It’s got its fair share of flaws and annoyances, but it remains a revolutionary game, the blueprint for the modern Western CRPG. Bioware got a hell of a lot more right than wrong when they made it.

      I’m more of a contrarian when it comes to Fallout, whose convoluted interface and molasses-slow combat I find as off-putting as a brick wall. (And this makes me a little sad, because Tim Cain’s channel is one of the most delightful things on YouTube.)

      • PlayHistory

        June 1, 2024 at 4:16 pm

        The fact that Tim Cain just whipped out a dated timeline of Fallout development on a whim proves that the internet is still worthwhile.

  14. Adam

    May 31, 2024 at 9:59 pm

    Is the downfall of Sierra Online a topic that will be covered for 1998? I think that was the year the CUC scandal was uncovered and the Williamses left the company, despite the Sierra entity lingering on until around 2006.

  15. Krsto

    June 1, 2024 at 12:03 am

    Hello Jimmy, your plan for covering 1998, looks really promising, but I must admit that I’m little disappointed that you don’t plan to cover Black Dahlia an FMV adventure game. I know that you pretty much despise FMV games, and BD surely isn’t the best of the bunch. But, it was pretty ambitious for a time, and probably marks the practical end of FMV fad in adventure games, at least until resurgence in indie titles like Her Story and similar.

    I’m also interested do you plan to do some kind retrospective of a Dreamforge Intertainment and their games when covering Sanitarium?

    • Jimmy Maher

      June 1, 2024 at 8:57 am

      Black Dahlia was actually one of the last games on my shortlist to get the chop. I wouldn’t say that I “despise” FMV games, but I’ve probably written about enough of them by now. As I understand it, Black Dahlia has a list of very typical flaws for the style, along with some pretty problematic puzzles. I found I just couldn’t get myself very interested in playing it, nor did I know what fresh angle I could bring to an article. Sorry!

      I’m sure I’ll given a brief summation of Dreamforge when writing about Sanitarium. Is there something special I should look for that makes them particularly interesting?

      • Krsto

        June 2, 2024 at 12:09 am

        They have catalogue of really interesting games before Sanitarium, both in adventure (Veil of Darkness, Chronomaster) and RPG genre (Ravenloft series, Menzobarranzan, Anvil of Dawn), some of them are flawed in some aspect, especially if you judge them by modern gaming standards. But, almost all of them nailed intended atmosphere spot on, anyway Sanitarium was their best game, and pretty unique experience until the STASIS and other games from The Brotherhood were released.

      • Marco

        June 2, 2024 at 9:59 am

        I’m working through Black Dahlia at the moment, on and off with a lot of breaks, which I think says something. The main thing in its favour is that it’s a very substantial game, but the plot is all over the place and doesn’t know whether it wants to be gritty police procedural, period film noir or off the wall supernatural. There are also a huge number of sliding block puzzles in various forms. The paper folding puzzle is probably the most difficult standalone puzzle in adventure game history – it’s basically impossible without a walkthrough.

        • Jimmy Maher

          June 3, 2024 at 7:43 am

          This confirms all of my preconceptions. I feel like I’ve played and written about enough games with that set of strengths and flaws.

  16. Curtis

    June 1, 2024 at 3:19 am

    I’m so excited to read about the Journeyman Projects! Those games captured my imagination as a child, and as an adult I found myself really digging the visual aesthetics.

  17. Alex

    June 1, 2024 at 5:53 am

    I´m looking forward to your thoughts about Baldur´s Gate regarding Gameplay and Story. There has been quite some talk over the history of Bioware and the importance of BG to the roleplaying genre in general over the last few years. Up to the point where I feel some things get a little out of proportion regarding BG1 and the Infinity Engine.

    Regarding Fallout 1: Up to this day this is the only game I beat without intention. I played it the first time when I was quite new to the genre and liked it from the beginning, but somehow I never made it to the end. Then one day, during one particular hot holiday season (too hot to go outside), I picked it up again just to pass the time, played it without giving it much thought and suddenly beat it. Of course, when I tried to do this again latter on, I always failed. Well, at least it made me a fan of the whole franchise.

    Regarding Might and Magic VI: While the franchise ran out of steam quite long before my time, Part VI was released when I was a young teenager. I knew it was popular in Germany, but I never played it myself during it´s prime. I tried it the first time last year and while it´s clumsy and headscrathing, I fell in love with the mechanic and even bought the “6-pack”-bundle later on. So yes, I now can understand while apparently quite a lot of people hold the franchise in such a high regard.

  18. David Cornelson

    June 1, 2024 at 6:11 am

    You forgot the most important thing…


  19. Jarno

    June 1, 2024 at 11:48 am

    Boulder Dash is one of the earliest computer games I ever saw at a local computer club. Your article might be well timed for the release of The 40th anniversary edition of Boulder Dash, which should be out later this year.

    I though that Peter Liepa’s new levels in 30th anniversary Boulder Dash were awesome, but I wasn’t completely sold on the modern graphics. That shouldn’t be an issue with a retro C64 version of the 40th Anniversary game though.

  20. eldomtom2

    June 1, 2024 at 12:08 pm

    Excited for the Douglas Adams and Railroad Tycoon II articles.

    Also, I posted this some months ago when you posted your “looking ahead to 1997” post,but 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 unorthodox interpretations of the Ring opera:

    • Michael Zier

      June 1, 2024 at 9:19 pm

      We are deeply into the era where this will be a problem. For Sanitarium, for example, I have found that dgVoodo2 ( became an invaluable tool that I found on another forum somewhere. And I’mm still only running Win10, I can’t wait to see what happens when I finally afford a new machine and upgrade to Win11 or 12…

  21. Alex

    June 1, 2024 at 5:20 pm

    Regarding the Ring: While this reviewer made a VERY interesting video about this game and its sucessor, he also says he had to reinstall his operating system to play and record it and that it will not run in many cases:

    I also remember another video where someone said he almost gave up on trying to run in. So, while this may be interesting, it seems it´s quite a challenge to get it to run properly (unless someone patched it in the meantime – I didn´t check.)

  22. Ross

    June 1, 2024 at 6:30 pm

    Adding my own to the happy noises about The Journeyman Project series (To which my own very modest Interactive Fiction series owes a non-legally-actionable debt). Also Sanitarium and The peak 90s FMV of the X-Files Game. I love the extent to which the 90s government conspiracy craze can be understood as “They lied to us about the Soviets being an evil, indestructable empire of people who all wanted us dead and definitely would overrun us if we didn’t keep dumping zillions of dollars into the military industrial complex. I wonder what else they lied about”

  23. Michael Zier

    June 1, 2024 at 9:14 pm

    I’m most looking forward to your coverage of Sanitarium. A million years ago or so, I got a review copy when I was running an adventure news & review site during my college years. It’s one of the games from that era I always look fondly back on. The music was (usually) hauntingly good, the game was a solid mix of dark and whimsical, and much like the main character, you are meant to be thrown in all directions throughout.

    Sadly, the Internet Archive seems to have lost that particular page from the past, with that game’s review. I was looking forward to seeing my poor writing from 25 years ago, but alas, it’s not the case now.

    I’m now an editor/reviewer over at The Adventurer’s Guild, and I’ve been counting the days until our blog gets to 1998, so I can fight, tooth and nail, with the other reviewers over rights to that game. It will be many years until then, so I have time to hit the gym and build up strength.

  24. Guilherme Fernandes

    June 1, 2024 at 9:52 pm

    Hello, just finished getting caught up, awesome blog you have there! It’s very common for most gaming histories to focus more on consoles and leave computer games as an afterthought, so somebody focusing on PCs like you is very welcome.

    Having read your FF7 series, and knowing that adventure is your favorite genre, especially interactive fiction, I wonder if you pretend to eventually come to cover the Japanese Visual Novels. They lack the parser of old IFs, but their reliance of text makes them one of the closest living relatives to them, as well as having some great offerings of their own (I would rank The House in Fata Morgana amongst the best books I’ve read). It is going to take a while yet in your timeline for them to start their popularity in the west, but they are already reaching their height in Japan, with titles like Tokimeki Memorial and YU-NO, and the start of famous companies like Key and Leaf.

    • Jimmy Maher

      June 2, 2024 at 8:39 am

      I do find the format interesting, for all that I have no experience with it whatsoever. I found Final Fantasy VII most enjoyable when it was playing like a visual novel rather than making me fight hordes of monsters. ;)

      My only problem is that, although I knew that not all Japanese visual novels are hentai games, a lot of the earlier ones especially have a tendency to depict young girls in highly sexualized ways, which I find unappetizing if not downright disturbing. I should probably play Kana: Little Sister when the time comes, but, just judging from the screenshots, I’m not sure I’m looking forward to it…

  25. Dylan

    June 1, 2024 at 10:11 pm

    Hey Jimmy,

    First: I’ve long meant to send you a copy of my 2011 book, A Mind Forever Voyaging (original title, I know) which covers Half-Life and a few other games you have covered (and will cover yet). It’s an amateurish work (I wrote it in undergrad!) that’s not at all at your caliber, but I suspect you could still find some interesting threads and cited sources in it. If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll send you a PDF/epub/hard copy/whatever you wish.

    Second, as usual you’ve gotten all the must-haves for this year, though as others have noted, Metal Gear Solid is worth an inclusion. I think everything else that’s important in 1998 is either outside this blog’s wheelhouse (Starsiege: Tribes) or more marginal (Myth II).

    • Jimmy Maher

      June 2, 2024 at 8:29 am

      I would indeed be interested to see it. You can send it to me at the email link in the post above. Thanks!

  26. Alianora La Canta

    June 1, 2024 at 10:46 pm

    The main games from this year that I played and aren’t already on this list for me are Jazz Jackrabbit 2 and Wetrix, neither of which are significant omissions. (Even I have to admit that more logical route for a “what Epic did next” would be a game I haven’t played from 1998 – Unreal).

    Of the listed entries, the ones I’m looking forward to most are:

    – Interactive fiction
    – Starcraft
    – Windows 98
    – Grim Fandango
    – Game shows
    – Half-Life
    – Railroad Tycoon II (the difficulties a modern player has making it multi-player probably haven’t helped it be remembered, but I do like it as a single-player experience)
    – Baldur’s Gate

    It’s going to be another fun year to read. Thank you for continuing to write the series.

  27. JohnMcSheffrey

    June 1, 2024 at 11:53 pm

    Front Page Sports Baseball 98

    Precursor to
    High Heat Baseball series
    Out of the Park (OOTP) baseball
    EA Sports Baseball
    MLB the Show

  28. Squireoivanhoe

    June 2, 2024 at 12:36 am

    While recognizing their major flaws and how they didn’t quite hit their mark, I loved mask of eternity and qfg V for what they tried to do. Still do, and still play them every five years or so. Mask had an amazing score and sense of atmosphere (that squelching sound when zombies came out of the ground behind you, the overdone but epic dialogue). Qfg V had me consistently concerned about which of my old friends were about to get murdered or poisoned, and the spells made you finally feel like a truly epic hero. Looking forward to those as well as Baldur’s Gate.

  29. Sarah Walker

    June 2, 2024 at 8:56 am

    Couple of possible suggestions. Firstly, maybe at least a mention of Unreal somewhere? It’s a pretty flawed game, but does some interesting pre-Half Life attempts at world building and (sort of) character interaction (via the Nali). Plus it spawned the eponymous engine which runs most the game industry these days.

    Also Legend were involved in the series if you wanted more author appeal :)

    Secondly, maybe an Apple / Macintosh update? 1998 does see the launch of the iMac which was very much the start of Apple’s recovery and rise to its current position.

    While I wouldn’t expect to see it even mentioned anywhere, I will note that Acorn broke up towards the end of the year, ending their involvement in personal computers. They obviously hadn’t had any gaming impact for years at this point, but as the last of the 80s home computer firms to call it quits it feels like the end of an era.

    • Jimmy Maher

      June 2, 2024 at 9:25 am

      I think I can cover some aspects of Unreal in the Half-Life article. That said: in the past, writing in detail about games whose aesthetic goals don’t align with any of my natural sympathies has led to what some readers have described — probably fairly, for all that it really wasn’t my intention — as a certain above-it-all, condescending tone. That’s not really the writer I’d prefer to be, so I’ve decided to be a little bit more willing to just leave those subjects mostly likely to produce that tone for others to cover in detail. This doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with loving styles of gaming that I don’t. I’m not just all that well-equipped to review those games as a critic. I find the FPS phenomenon — and to a large extent the RTS phenomenon as well — most interesting as a *social* phenomenon, and I think that’s the best way for me to approach it here, rather than on a game-by-game basis. As gaming continues to expand and diversify, I’m ready to embrace the “shadow history” approach even more, to focus on the lower-profile titles about which I can get really passionate. The ditch rather than the middle of the road. ;)

      You’re of course right that there’s a huge story looming there in Steve Jobs’s return to Apple, the iMac, etc. But I think it’s one we can safely push just a little further into the future, which will give a better sense of the big-picture impact of it all.

      And the end of Acorn does seem a symbolic milestone. Not sure where it would fit, but you’ve planted a seed at least. ;) We’ll see. I’m realizing more and more what a year of endings 1998 was. It reminds me of 1990 or so in that respect, lots of olds making way for lots of news.

  30. Sebastian Redl

    June 3, 2024 at 6:55 am

    1998 also saw the release of the first Commandos. This may have flown under your radar, since it appears it never was very big in the US. But for Europe, it was quite a significant game, as the most successful Spanish production to that date.

    It is also, to my knowledge, the defining game of the Stealth Real Time Tactics genre, i.e. using an RTS engine for a puzzle game. Thus, it is to RTS like Thief is to FPS. Other examples of this genre include the Desperados and Shadow Tactics series.

    • Jimmy Maher

      June 3, 2024 at 7:39 am

      This is another of those that didn’t make the final cut. But I may circle back to look at the series at some point, as there was an expansion pack and two sequels.

    • dusoft

      June 4, 2024 at 10:29 pm

      Commandos, nice! I agree, it has created a sub-genre.

  31. Rinni

    June 3, 2024 at 4:53 pm

    I was hoping to find Temujin in the list.

    But I’m very happy about The Journeyman Project.

  32. Steph

    June 3, 2024 at 6:05 pm

    I’m definitely interested in learning more about the origins of Baldur’s Gate, as someone who’s been swept up in the Baldur’s Gate 3 phenomenon but knows nothing about the others.

  33. eldomtom2

    June 6, 2024 at 3:20 pm

    I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but Railroad Tycoon 2 designer and programmer Phil Steinmeyer wrote a monthly column from 1999 to 2003:

    As it was written while he was working on Tropico and Railroad Tycoon 3, it obviously focuses primarily on those games, but also contains a lot of info on the development of Railroad Tycoon 2 as well.

    There’s also this interesting story from a Heroes 3 dev alleging that Railroad Tycoon 2 was built on the source code of Heroes 2:

    • Jimmy Maher

      June 6, 2024 at 3:39 pm

      I wasn’t aware of either of those. Thanks!

      It’s hard for me to imagine how much use the Heroes II source could really be for Railroad Tycoon II, beyond extremely basic interface widgets and the like. Turn-based versus real-time is only the beginning of the differences between the two…

  34. Krsto

    June 6, 2024 at 6:23 pm

    Hi Jimmy, recently, I realized that the first version of Adventure Game Studio was released in 1997. Given its significance in reviving the traditional point-and-click adventure genre, it would be good to cover it. Do you have any plans for that?

    • Jimmy Maher

      June 6, 2024 at 6:40 pm

      I’m sure I will, but probably not for a few years yet. It wasn’t until shortly after the millennium that the tool and the community surrounding it had matured enough to start producing some interesting games.

  35. Keith

    June 11, 2024 at 4:07 pm

    Unreal may be worth looking at, though perhaps it could be rolled into the article about Half-Life. First person shooters are an important branch of “where IF went”, and some FPS games tell a story better than others (like Half-Life.) When you consider the importance that the Unreal Engine would gain as time goes on, taking a peek at its infancy may make sense. Related topics could be the Quake versus Unreal “engine war”: the Unreal Engine was so much easier to use that it would eventually take over. Consider the drama of Duke Nukem Forever changing engines midstream. Unreal is a tough slog to play, unfortunately. It has a few levels that are the gems we all remember, but there’s are a lot of huge, boring levels in that game.

  36. Vulpes

    June 15, 2024 at 3:17 pm

    Without wanting to tell you your business, I think you’d be remiss if you didn’t cover The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the single most critically-acclaimed video game of all time and a profoundly influential title on the medium as a whole. Yes, it’s a console game, but that distinction is becoming increasingly irrelevant as we move through the history of video games.


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