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11

“Solo-Friendly” is Mostly an Illusion

In my last post I pointed out that "LFG" is still very much a thing in modern MMOS -- even the most "accessible" ones. The interfaces have been updated, but the concept is still 100% there.

Today I want to point out how this idea of solo-friendly gameplay is also largely an illusion. When people look back on MMOs from 1997-2003 they often think of how those games were really not solo friendly at all. Then they look at modern MMOs as a bastion of "play by yourself all you want" which is completely false.

Let's compare the old school games like EQ (circa 1999), SWG, UO, etc., to today's accessible giant.

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2

The Treehouse Game (1991)

Oh the memories. Somehow tonight's conversation on the K&G Discord went toward talking about old games we played on our parents computers back in the early days. We talked about the educational games where you did math, and then I remembered a game about a treehouse and learning. Then a video was linked in Youtube, and memory lane came into view.

Anyone ever play The Treehouse? I remember playing it back in 1991-ish era, but I don't remember it looking this good. I'm pretty sure these must be the updated graphics.

I remember thinking how AWESOME it was that these monkeys (now I find out they look like possums, but as a kid I was totally into them as monkeys) had their own treehouse. I always wanted my own treehouse, so this was totally a fantasy coming to live.

I remember the mini games we would play. I'm pretty sure one was about getting money and driving around a taxi, another was about playing a piano and guessing how to play songs, one had you putting animals outside, and a few math ones I'm sure.

Graev and I would totally fight over who got to play the Treehouse game. I have a list now of games I want to go look back on for the sake of nostalgia.

2

Recent Rush & Nostalgic Vision

This evening I randomly stumbled upon the UO soundtrack.

I was working on something entirely different (not this post) when this music came on. I had to stop and come write these thoughts down. Forgive my stream of consciousness as I try and make sense of it.

In my mind's eye I suddenly had images of playing a brand new newbie character and wandering around a large capital city. The world of this game is unfamiliar to me, but it's a feeling I had before of wandering around a city looking for potion shops or somewhere to find a shop keeper.

I'm reminded of asking people in local (not global or region) chat channels for directions, and having to figure things out together. I don't recall this being an actual memory, but I wandered into a group of players sitting around a camp fire waiting for day before leaving the safety of the city walls.

Slower... yes, it's a slower feeling.

The worlds today are rushed, hectic, and we're always going somewhere because we know where we have to go. We know what we have to do. We have micro objectives. Everything is prescribed, known, expected. ​

My nostalgic rush reminds me of days where the entire experience was so slow that logging in and walking around was itself an adventure.​

The feelings are almost emotional in a way. It brought back those feelings of not knowing anything and feeling so small, lost, and insignificant in a virtual world. Yet at the same time it was (is) a glorious feeling to have no idea what the future holds.

I feel a huge nostalgia rush coming over me lately. There's an enormous pull to go play games that feel more like virtual worlds again. Tonight's 'episode' and almost day-dream vision of staring off into space while listening to these midis only fuels that desire.

There's Agnarr, the upcoming Everquest time-locked progression server. I've also been looking at Legends of Aria which has components of NWN and UO. 

Perhaps Agnarr will be a good place to start once again, but I'm open to your ideas. I can't be the only one who slips into these daydreams and experiences such powerful feeling simply from memories. Am I?​

P.S. Which do you like better, the Midi above or this version below?​

P.P.S. I felt a picture of The Realm was entirely fitting for a featured image. Those who played as long as I did will remember it hits quite a few of these notes.

5

QuickCast Episode 5: Retropie

[smart_track_player url="http://feeds.soundcloud.com/stream/321208880-keenandgraev-quickcast-episode-5-retropie.m4a" ]

Show Notes

In lieu of the ever-unattainable Mini NES, Graev decided to build himself a Retropie out of a Raspberry Pi. He showed it to me this afternoon and I knew we had to devote this week's QuickCast to discussing this cool new toy.

Here's what we chat about this week:

  • The gist of what a Retropie is and basically how to set one up
  • The hardware you'll need
  • The peripherals you can pick up to enhance your Retropie system
  • The games
  • The 'legality' or ethics of the emulator/rom scene​

Episode Links

Here are the accessories and gadgets we mentioned in this week's episode:

9

Maximum Nostalgia!

 

eq-expansion-montage

I was very pleased to see the news of Daybreak’s progress on the up and coming EverQuest progression server. Friday they announced that the “Slower Progression” option won the poll. If you recall from my previous EQ progression server post, this option wasn’t the my ideal choice but a close second. I would have preferred a locked progression, but given their latest bit of news a slow progression server might not be so bad.

  1. Maximum Nostalgia: 6 month unlocks until Gates of Discord; 3 months afterward. This ruleset would take six and a half years to reach where live servers are now.
    1. Kunark: 6 months
    2. Velious: 6 months
    3. Luclin: 6 months
    4. Planes of Power: 6 months
      1. Legacy of Ykesha: 2 weeks after PoP
      2. LDoN: 4 weeks after PoP
    5. Gates: 6 months (after PoP)
    6. Omens and later: 3 months

That’s not bad! Several years of EverQuest? Yep, I’m okay with that. They’re also talking about whether or not voting would be implemented or if the expansions would simply unlock at the predetermined time. I hope voting comes into play so that we can delay PoP.

A few of us in our forum community are already planning to start a group on the server. Let’s hope they keep moving at this pace.

11

Out with the Old, In with the New?

Posts here tend to reflect back on older games, our love for them, our memories, what worked and didn’t, the evolution of MMO design, etc. As a result, we often see a theme in the comments section:

“X game would never work if released today. If X game were released today it would fail. People don’t want X game.”

Those saying these things are correct, but not for the reasons they think. It’s like anything old vs. anything new. People want and gravitate toward the newer thing. The market changes as people’s tastes change. What we want and think is heavily influenced by the here and now of our culture. But don’t lose sight of why something worked in the past.

An old PDA if released today would fail. Why? Because people want the iPad. Does that make what the old PDA did bad, or undesirable? No. People still want a touch device, an organizer, something that can make phone calls, store contacts, take notes, play games, etc. People still want the same things, but they want them ‘sexier’. The limits of what we desire today have expanded. There’s no reason why new games can’t do what those games did while taking into consideration the proper expanded desires of today’s market.

I think Apple has done a nice job proving this point.

iphone evolution

‘The original iPhone would never work if released today. If the original iPhone were released today it would fail. People don’t want the original iPhone.’ That doesn’t mean we disregard everything from the original iPhone. We take what worked and we adapt it for what the market demands. The market demands bigger? Give them bigger! The market demands faster, more color options, higher resolutions? Give it to them! But the core concept and design of the iPhone — from the user experience down to the very core of what the iPhone does — remains consistent and can not change or else the iPhone ceases to be the iPhone, and would fail.

So when I see people saying that a game like EverQuest, DAoC, or SWG wouldn’t work today, I’d like to see proof that someone has really tried. Release a sexier version of DAoC, EverQuest, or even SWG (maybe The Repopulation?) and let’s see if it simply wouldn’t work. My honest belief is that it would work, just like it already did, and it work a heck of a lot better than the games releasing today with models that are supposedly ‘what the market demands.’

24

You’ve ruined your own lands! You’ll not ruin mine!

EverQuest Ruins of Kunark Art

My hopes for a fast-moving Daybreak Games Company (DGC) might actually not be completely insane. My last entry was Daybreak alluding to a new progression-based EverQuest server. Throughout the post and comments I have maintained the position that Daybreak needs to move quickly to show the community that they care about the EQ franchise, they care what players want, and that they aren’t stuck in a rut after layoffs — in other words, they can actually still make games.

Last night a forum post went up on the official forums explaining potential rulesets which are up for vote on the live servers (which I do not have access to since I am not currently a subscriber). Since I can’t actually vote in-game, I’m going to vote here and explain why.

1. Existing rules:

  • Server starts with only the original EverQuest zones active. Players start at level 1.
  • When players kill a set of predefined targets, a two-month countdown timer starts. There is a three-month timer before Kunark and Velious can unlock.
  • When the timer is complete, a two-week vote starts that will enable the next expansion. If the majority chooses ‘yes,’ the expansion unlocks at the end of the voting period. If the majority chooses ‘no,’ a new vote begins immediately.
  • This progression can continue until the server is no longer able to defeat raid targets or until it catches up with live servers.

This is Fippy, the current server’s ruleset. Meh. I don’t like the voting.  I think players can actually crank this out quickly and progress this kind of server at lightning speed.

2. Slower progression

  • Server starts with only the original EverQuest zones active. Players start at level 1.
  • When players kill a set of predefined targets, a three-plus month countdown timer starts. When the timer is complete, a two-week vote starts. If the majority chooses ‘yes,’ the expansion unlocks at the end of the voting period. If the majority chooses ‘no,’ a new vote begins immediately.
  • This progression can continue until the server is no longer able to defeat raid targets or until it catches up with live servers.

A little bit better, a little bit slower. Still meh. Not my ideal.

3. Locked progression

  • Server starts with only the original EverQuest zones active. Players start at level 1.
  • When players kill a set of predefined targets, a two-month countdown timer starts. There is a three-month timer before Kunark and Velious can unlock.
  • OPTION: When the timer is complete, a two-week vote starts that will enable the next expansion. If the majority chooses ‘yes,’ the expansion unlocks at the end of the voting period. If the majority chooses ‘no,’ a new vote begins immediately.
  • OPTION: Dev determines the unlocked progression based on the player completion rates.
  • At a specific point, determined by Dev, votes are no longer available and progression is complete.

Now we’re talking! I would take this ruleset but add Kunark on a 6-8 month countdown with a vote for Velious. I love the idea that the devs would identify a point in time where progression is complete. A permanent classic server? Yes, please! Maybe lock it around PoP?

4. Seasonal Challenge Server

  • The server starts with only original EverQuest zones active, or with content enabled through a later expansion. Players start at level 1.
  • OPTION: When players kill a set of predefined targets, a vote begins within a week. Each vote lasts two weeks. If the majority chooses ‘yes,’ the expansion unlocks at the end of the voting period. If the majority chooses ‘no,’ a new vote begins immediately.
  • OPTION: Alternatively, Dev may choose to unlock content when progression targets are complete.
  • Players have a set period of time (one season) to complete as much content as they can. The player(s) who get the farthest will receive recognition and a prize (to be determined later).
  • Once the season is complete, the server is reset and the challenge begins anew!

By far the worst idea. It turns EverQuest into a power-gaming level grind for the elitist guilds and doesn’t allow for players like me who love to relax and teleport players around, or camp objectives to earn neat items, to play my way. I may not want to rush to 50 to camp the planes.

Despite clearly favoring the third option, I would play on any of these (except maybe the 4th… even then I’d be tempted). My biggest complaint about all of them is the inclusion of voting, hence the title of this post (name that quote!). I would much rather see a time-locked progression server where the expansions release at the same historical pace (or LIGHTLY accelerated if at all).

The key here, however, isn’t necessarily the ruleset! I want Daybreak to understand this point very, very clearly: Charge a damn subscription! Require All-access! I do not care what you do, but do not screw it up with “Free to Play All the Way” and RAF nonsense.

So could it be? Could DGC actually be doing the smart thing and moving full steam ahead with an EverQuest progression server? My hope is growing once again.

4

Graev Rant: What happened to licensed games?

aladdin snesA long time ago licensed games used to be pretty bad, like with E.T. on Atari. Maybe some were good, but I don’t really care because I was either not alive or just barely sentient at the time. Later on there was a golden age of licensed games on systems like the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. Disney games were almost always great and stuff like Aladdin, The Lion King, and various Micky/Donald games were just awesome. Ninja Turtle games like Turtles in Time and Hyperstone Heist were the shiz. There were Batman: The Animated Series games and even a few decent ones based off of the movies. I think a lot of these games were made by companies like Capcom and Konami which seemed to print gold with every game. Maybe that has something to do with it or maybe I just have a very poor and selective memory of older games.

There were also several great licensed games on later consoles like the N64 and PSX. The Spider-Man games were incredible. Unfortunately I think I just invalidated these while recalling Superman 64. But I’m sure you get the point here. There used to be a lot of quality licensed games. From there it got so much worse so fast to the point where people just wrote off any game based on a movie, tv show, comic, or book. Every now and then there was an anomaly like Chronicles of Riddick and Spider-Man 2 but by and large it was mostly god-awful crap that got churned out. I think this kind of game-mill mentality really hurt Disney’s game image but fortunately that seems to be getting turned around with the release of stuff like Disney Infinity.

I just used to really enjoy the idea of “getting the game after you saw the movie,” if you get my meaning. It’s kind of like the next evolution of buying all of the action figures after seeing a movie, which I imagine probably ends up being a lot more expensive. Nowadays new movies come out and I always keep an eye out for video game tie-ins with the hope that a gem might slip through the crack. Unfortunately they just don’t seem to make too many console licensed games these days. Which may be a good thing depending on your perspective.

But to answer my own question… What Happened To Licensed Games?

Oh, they’re all on phones and tablets. Fantastic.

10

I have never played a Mega Man game

Until now!

It’s always been my secret shame, and something that I’ve always been embarrassed to admit, but the truth is I have never played a Mega Man game until quite recently. Honestly I blame it on the fact that I owned a Master System rather than an NES and never had a Playstation 1. I should also probably not admit that I haven’t played any of the early Castlevania games but we only have enough time for so much shame.

So how did my first Mega Man experience come about? Why, after all of this, time did I finally play a Mega Man game? Well all through August there is a new Mega Man game being added to the virtual console service on Wii U. So which game was the first one I played?! Mega Man Battle Network! Whaaaat?! An offshoot game? Does that even count? These questions and more must be rushing through your mind but it is in fact the truth. It looked fun so I tried it out and immediately loved it. I have a vague recollection of the cartoon on Saturday mornings, but other than that I went in blind. Basically the game centers around a kid named LAN and his Net Navi named MegaMan.exe. You can jack into various electronics and send Mega Man onto the net and so on. The combat is actually pretty cool too. You move around on a grid in real-time firing your buster at viruses and the like. When your meter fills you can utilize various chips to perform special shots and attacks or other supportive functions. It’s pretty freakin’ sweet.

Some time later I did feel like I owed it to the series to try out the original games. I got my hands on the old Mega Man Anniversay collection and gave it a go. I mean, how hard could it be if kids in the 80’s could beat them? Obviously that’s a completely stupid sentiment since 80’s hard doesn’t just refer to rock music. I never knew how brutal these games could be and my self-respect and self-worth was seriously compromised. After many, many attempts and a lot of swearing I was finally able to beat the first Mega Man game. I wanted to feel excited but knew that there were 9 other games in the original series just left me feeling overwhelmed. I did try out Mega Man 2 but there is only so much ass-kicking I can take. I opted instead to try out the Mega Man X series and I’m actually enjoying the first game a lot. It is very hard but the pretty colors and added features make going back difficult.

So there it is: my first few Mega Man experiences and only a few decades too late. I’m actually a little hooked on the series now and my Amazon cart is stuffed with a few titles. I guess it’s proof that it is never to late to try something new and enjoy it. On the other hand I now feel incredibly depressed that the Mega Man series seems to be pretty dead. At least we will get to see him in the new Smash Bros. game.

21

MMOs ARE Dying

Bhagpuss, one of my peers with a blog actually worth reading, brought this subject once again to the forefront of my mind.  I would end this entry with the title, but some of you may think my simple yet direct statement implies the entire genre is going away. Wrong. In fact, the MMO genre is here to stay, but in order to stay they are going to have to change so radically that the majority of this generation won’t recognize them. Perhaps the title should have been: “MMOs will be reborn.”

The MMO as most of you know it WILL die. The themepark model WILL be gone within a matter of years. The business models of today WILL change. Why? They aren’t working! MMORPGs (notice the RPG on the end there?) worked for years and the change to the MMO (McMMO even) was only brought on by big business. I have been preaching for years that it was a mistake to change or ‘fix’ something that wasn’t broken. Granted, that “mistake” introduced hundreds of millions of people to MMOs and brought in billions. Speaking strictly about the games, it was a mistake and led to the actual games being worse. Long-term (very long term) that has driven the industry into the ground.

You guys know me well enough by now, but it needs to be said again.  ::Steps up onto his soapbox:: Ahem…

You can ABSOLUTELY go back to that ‘first MMORPG experience’ and MMOs can ABSOLUTELY go back to MMORPGs and a modernized version of the old school mechanics! MMOs ARE Dying because the people who play MMOs are fleeting and moving on. MMORPGs never died and in many ways are still going strong in the hearts, minds, official servers, and player-run server communities.

There’s plenty of money to be made — ridiculous amounts in fact — for those savvy enough to bring back and change this industry once again back to its roots. How messy this whole situation becomes, and how hard it will be to bounce back, simply depends on how long it takes the decision-making side of this industry to wise up.

I’m ready when you guys are. Seriously. I’m ready to finally be able to post blog entries about the games I’m playing and the adventures I’ve gone on that day instead of talking about the same old crap not working. I’m ready to fully embrace a MMORPG again. Someone, please, give me that opportunity. Want help making one and getting people excited? I’m here for that too.

MMOs are dying; It’s not a matter of IF but WHEN. Hurry up already. We’ll all be better off when they do.

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