30 More Days: 10 Recommended Games

This is part of a series in which I try to write a post every day on silly video game topics.  For the list of topics, click here.

Let’s get old-school.  TFG provided no stipulations on time frame but given the word “past”, but I’d like to highlight 10 games that aren’t only significant in my gaming past, but also games that you could go out and play right now and actually enjoy.

This is a tricky thing, of course.  Graphically speaking, for instance, older games often feel dated in a way that can detract from the experience. Let’s discuss one of these right now: Myst.  Myst is an amazing game, really more of an “Event” within the gaming world.  Personally, though, I always felt its thrill came from the incredible leap forward that game took graphically, drawing you into the world like no other game had done. Now, I tend to judge it a bit harshly, turned off by the too-clean lines and too-shiny reflections.  You’re going to read later though that I am going to break this very rule which goes to show: I really have no fucking clue what I am talking about.

Also not on this list; MMOs.  There is without a doubt that EverQuest was one of the most significant games in that genre’s history, and (for better or worse) a part of my own gaming past, but let’s be honest here; all MMOs are more or less the same game with new features added on and old features further refined and improved.  Thus, the best MMOs are going to be the most recent ones, and I don’t think you gain any real appreciation for them by playing the older, less graphically engaging, and less user friendly games.  I’m not a fan of telling someone to slog through endless hours of EverQuest just you can enjoy The Secret World for what it is not.

So let’s get to the list:

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003) -Yes, the graphics are a bit dated, but being in the middle of a replay now (as shown yesterday), they still hold up.  What holds up even better is the story (still great after all of these years!) the voice acting, the play itself (even if you have to look up some of the old D&D 3rd edition rules) and of course the lightsabers.  KotOR really set the bar for Bioware and one only needs to look to this game to really appreciate their amazing run in the last decade.

Age of Empires II (1999) – Microsoft has always carved out a tiny niche for video games, but Age of Empires and its even better sequel might have been their greatest effort, and a step out of their then usual place of flight simulators.  Still it offers a very simple yet richly detailed tech tree, solid graphics that hold up even today, and a fun, repeatable game play.  The original is one of the games that introduced me to PC gaming, but the sequel was always better.

Total Annihilation (1997) – We’ve got a little genre group here with this and its bookends, but TA stood out on its own as a dark horse game with unlimited potential.  Starcraft & AoE were a bit more polished, a bit more thought through, but TA brought amazing graphics, beautiful explosions, coordinated chaos on the battlefield and a true feeling of unleashing the title’s fervor.

Starcraft: Brood War (1998) – The gold medal and pinnacle of all real-time strategy games.  Much like AoEII, the original was a fine game, but Brood War added on to it without upsetting the nearly perfect balance of the game.  So much so, it’s hard to even imagine StarCraft without Brood War.

Civilization III (2001) – Yes, Civ 4 is better.  Yes, there are ways to cheese the ever loving hell out of it.  But much like KotOR raised the bar for Bioware, Civ 3 raised the bar for Firaxis.  The only issue about going back to this version?  Much like going back to 4 after playing 5, you might not be used to rule changes!

Gauntlet (1985) – Despite my love for the remakes, the original is still the best.  Even better? Finding a way to play it on your PC where you don’t have to put in $5 in quarters just to play.

The Secret of Monkey Island (1990) – Sierra might have paved the way, but LucasArts nailed the adventure genre with the absolutely hilarious Monkey Island series.  The graphics here might be quite dated, though.  But I had to include it.

SimCity 3000 (1999) – For me, the most beloved of the franchise.  SC3K brought fantastic graphic and game-play improvements but even on today’s computers can run a bit slow and sluggish when it comes to re-drawing buildings.  There are some problems with the model as well, freeways are ugly and unsightly, non-standard zones don’t always get developed, and there was no scenario editor like there was in SC2K, but still, by far my favorite SimCity.

Dragon Warrior (1986) – Going way back here, but of all the early RPGs I ever played, Dragon Warrior was easily my favorite.  The graphics still hold up even today, despite the 8-bit platform, thanks to a very simple and colorful art style.  Being able to play it might require a bit of inventiveness if you don’t have your old NES, though.

Shadow of the Colossus (2005) – The youngest entry on my list, Shadow is a truly remarkable and breathtaking game.  I do fear that it may ultimately suffer the same fate that I decreed upon Myst, and perhaps that makes me a bit of hypocrite.  The difference for me here is the art style.  Myst broke a lot of barriers in graphic presentations, showing off not only what video games could do, but what computers could do: I would be shocked to hear that few animators my age or younger do not list Myst as an influence on their craft.  SotC simply took an amazing simplistic concept artistically and executed it beautifully.  For that, I’ve included it on this list over Myst.

And that, as they say, gentle reader is that.  30 days of video games (with a bit of a break for the holiday in between, yes) and 30 posts.  What’s next?  Probably nothing to do with video games, I think I am gamed out!

30 More Days: Minor Character

This is part of a series in which I try to write a post every day on silly video game topics.  For the list of topics, click here.

I can’t pick HK-47 twice?

Well, he’s not minor nor random, and maybe qualifies as a companion, but since I didn’t get the grumpy guy his due then, I’ll give him his now.  Let’s talk about Garrus Vakarian.


Garrus is perhaps one of the best homages to the buddy cop ever.  A charismatic guy with a dark past, a tendency to operate a bit outside the law (perfect for the Renegade Shep who is going to save this goddamned universe, goddamnit) – he’s Male Shep’s best buddy, a compatriot with a thousand war stories.

But to FemShep (canon, imo), he’s more.  Much, much more.  Sure, he’s willing to sit around all day and “calibrate the guns” but once you crack that hard plated skin of his, he’s a big gooey mess of a lover, so very, very awkward.  But beware of chafing.

So here’s to the best friend a lonely Shep could ever have (outside of Liara, or Tali, or… Jack, I guess, if you’re insane?)

30 More Days: Character Progression

This is part of a series in which I try to write a post every day on silly video game topics.  For the list of topics, click here.

TFG went a surprising direction, stealing my thunder, as it were, with her pick of Link.  Though, in full disclosure, that was never even really considered in my thoughts.

When I think of character progression, the very first thing that comes to mind is the talent system of World of Warcraft.  As with the case with many elements of WOW, the talent system was not an innovation, but rather a refinement of what had proceeded; Diablo II‘s skill trees, Dark Age of Camelot‘s point-a-level progression and even Everquest‘s AA system.  WOW did it well though, for the most part, balancing 3 trees across 9 classes with only a few terrible mistakes.diablo2

It’s hard to pick a progression system that I like the best.  WOW’s talents were easy to understand for the most part, the trees themselves clear in their focus (again, for the most part, not everything works the way a designer might think) and you knew for the most part, what you were getting and could easily reset your talents and try again if it didn’t work out the way you wanted to.

There are games on the other end of the spectrum, though – Anarchy Online infamously comes to mind with their convoluted IP system, though, once mastered, was a joy to abuse with buffs.  The Secret World (also by Funcom) has an open-ended, no-classes system where you build out decks of abilities, both active & passive.  Both are very complicated, though, and daunting to newbies.

So which is the best?  I think I’m going to return the favor (maybe it’s Freaky Fri… Saturday? in blog land) and take a pick that you’d be more surprised to see on TFG’s site: Diablo II.  Why D2?  You can’t respec (bad!), cookie cutter builds abound (bad!) but in the end, nothing felt better than finally getting to level 18, 24 or 30, unlocking the key skill in your target build, and gleefully owning the minions of hell.

30 More Days: Instances

This is part of a series in which I try to write a post every day on silly video game topics.  For the list of topics, click here.

The savvy reader might notice the exclusion of a question within this post’s title.  This is most assuredly on purpose as there is, in my mind at least, no question.  Instances in MMOs are so necessary, so fundamental to the stability and experience of those games that to go without these days is simply unthinkable.  Fans of an older, bygone day can wax nostalgic all they want.  I urge anyone to wax nostalgic about waiting at the entrance of Sebilis with a full group looking for somewhere to set up camp on a busy night.  Recollect fondly upon the lag within The Lake of Ill Omen, or Greater Faydark or Eastern Commons due to the hundreds within the zone.  Cherish those golden times when finally assembled, buffed and ready to engage, another guild engages the very beastie you sought out to slay, that one that’s been on a 2-week respawn that you’ve slept in shifts camping.

Jesus Tapdancing Christ, did I really play that game for 5 years?

My rants aside, the advent of instanced, private dungeons (done first within Anarchy Online, if memory serves, at least first done in a 3D MMO) was a massive step forward for MMOs.  Dungeons really should be experienced all the way through, from start to finish, and in Everquest, they really weren’t (not until Lost Dungeons expansion, I think?).  There were few dungeons left un-violated for a proper dungeon crawl (Najeena, maybe?  Kedge Keep, surely!) and the experience of having a proper go at clearing out a dungeon full of bad guys with out interference, trains or camps is, in my mind, the best of what MMOs have to offer.

So yes, not really a question, but a much beloved addition to MMO design.

30 More Days: Single or Multi-Player?

This is part of a series in which I try to write a post every day on silly video game topics.  For the list of topics, click here.

Being a large fan of MMO’s, I would have to say multi-player, but there are also times when I just want to be on my own, zone out and immerse myself in a game and play it without interruption or distraction.  So – I’m going to say why choose?  Both!

I’m not sure why you would want to choose one or the other anyway.  I did have a great time playing WOW with TFG and our friends but I’ve had equally great times playing single player games.  What’s so wrong with liking both?

No subtext here at all.

30 More Days: Favorite Weapon

This is part of a series in which I try to write a post every day on silly video game topics.  For the list of topics, click here.

Was there any doubt?

The Master Sword
“Master using it and you can have this.”

There’s really no other choice for me.  The sword of evil’s bane is by far my favorite weapon in any game.  The Arthurian homages, the powers of the sword to reflect evil (Tennis, anyone?) and the various means of acquiring the sword make it one of the most epic pieces of loot.  It was the Master Sword, after all, that really opened my eyes to just how satisfying getting “phat loot”, as it is called in parlance of our times, really is.  Fire flowers come and go.   A new power is dandy, but it’s just a way to beat the next boss.  The Master Sword is a game changer.


30 More Days: Game You Love to Hate

This is part of a series in which I try to write a post every day on silly video game topics.  For the list of topics, click here.

I don’t think I have a single answer here.  There are some TERRIBLE games out there, and games that I thought might have looked good, but sucked, but I keep going back to a genre on this one.  That’s right you little mouth-breathing, moms basement living, anti-social morons, I hate multi-player shooters.

Doom, Halo, Unreal, Gears of War, first-person, third-person, in the immortal words of Chris Tucker, I don’t give a fuck.  They all fucking suck.  I hate the engines, I hate the gore level, I hate the level design, I hate that I get motion sickness playing a lot of them, I hate the endless barrage of weapon upgrades, and more than anything else, I hate, I hate, I hate, I HATE multi-player.

Your typical multi-person gamer.

No, I haven’t played a lot of them.  I’m better than that.  Why would I hob nob with short-attention span, shit talking, ignorant, hate-spewing troglodytes?  Spend any time on your X-Box one of these games and you’ll get a sample platter of the ‘best’ humanity has to offer.  “LOL u gt pwnd fggt!  Hhaha ur ghey!!1”  Maybe even uttered aloud over a built-in chat/VoIP system, too.  And there’s no point to these games, really.  Just an endless slog doing the same thing over and over and over, killing the same enemies just so you can have some shiny achievement or points or new look or something.  Fucking pathetic.  Just another example of the deacy of our society and people’s sick urges to live out their fanta…

What’s that?  What games to do I play?  MMORPGs, why do you ask?

30 More Days: Preferred Universe

This is part of a series in which I try to write a post every day on silly video game topics.  For the list of topics, click here.

And I am now finally caught up, doing three posts in one day.  (There it is again.)  I have not yet read TFG’s answer on this one yet, but knowing her, it’s either WOW or Pokemon, or probably both, from what I’ve heard about Mists of Pandaria.  (Really, it’s called Pandaria?  Is their city called Panda Town?  The Panda Palace?  Grumble.)

That’s not really an aside, is it?  That is the topic, after all.  Azeroth, for all its faults, was a great place to inhabit.  The artwork was really well done, even considering Warcraft’s comic-influenced art style.  Khaz Modan, Ashenvale, Thunder Bluff, some of my favorite locations in any video game.  But, as an actual place, it just doesn’t work, and no, I’m not talking about obviously magical effects.  “Lost” continents being discovered conveniently when the narrative demands it is a big part of what is so goofy about Azeroth and the writing thereof.

I think it’s a fitting tribute then that I suggest that fabled Rhode Island metropolis, Paragon City.  The City of Heroes.

City of Heroes recently was shut down and with it, a universe that I came back to time and time again, a word I revisited more often than any other MMO combined.  Hundreds of lives were created and wiped clean, as I endlessly dreamed of new heroes and villains that would do battle along the streets of Steel Canyon, in the slums of King’s Row, and the ruins of Overbrook.  Heroes such as the Emerald Mask, Jason Black, Post Meridian, Red Jacket and the Crimson Vespa would fight epic battles against the Clockwork King, Dr. Vhazilok and the endless minions of Arachnos.  Villains like Sadim, The Dallas Has-Been, Witch-Killer Wren and Duvant planned and schemed, looking to take down Paragon and Rogue Isles for their own gain.

30 More Days: Favorite Boss/Raid

This is part of a series in which I try to write a post every day on silly video game topics.  For the list of topics, click here.

Please allow me to state for the record:  I hate raids.  I have rarely enjoyed myself on raids in any game, so my answer for this will not be a “favorite raid.”  However, allow me to speak some about raid mechanics and “boss fights” within raids.

My experience with raids in MMOs is thus; Everquest’s Planes of Hate & Fear and some Velious stuff.  Dark Age of Camelot‘s Realm vs. Realm keep raids.  World of Warcraft‘s Molten Core & Wrath of the Lich King.  That’s.  About.  It.  So I am very much a raiding newbie.  My experience with raids from the outset was one of idle frustration and boredom, especially with Everquest.  Haters need not even reply – raiding in Everquest was one of the most inane and poorly designed systems ever.  The mere concept of them, waiting for a spawn, hoping that other groups would respect your raid, having no instancing what so ever has always struck me as one of the most shit-tacular ways of wasting everyone’s time.  Coupled with the punitive penalties for failure, I simply vowed never to spend that much time with them.

DAOC’s PvP based raid system was much more enjoyable when it focused on siege warfare, otherwise it was Zerg v. Zerg, or small group combat which was not “raiding”.  WOW’s Molten Core wasn’t much better than Everquest – trading instances and on-demand raids for insane amounts of trash.  But, WOW did something, and expanded on it well; it added mechanics.  Tricks, strategies, things you had to do – whatever you want to call them – boss fights felt more like, well boss fights.  You had to be adaptive.  You had to, essentially, fail a few times, figure out the trick to beating the boss, and then you had to execute.

That’s what’s always fun about boss fights.  On TFG’s site, I answered Ganondorf/Ganon as my favorite boss fight.  That was a great fight, and a fitting end to one of the best games ever.  Some cinematic action, a curveball in the game mechanics coupled with a new fight mechanic (tennis, anyone?), with some cutscenes and mid-fight break back to traditional gameplay before going all-in with another handicap and a bigger, harder boss.

Ocarina of Time had a pretty good boss fight in Ganon, but the more I think about the idea of adaptability, another game stands out for requiring inventiveness and a lot of trial and error.

That’s right, my vote has changed and is going to Mega Man.

30 More Days: Favorite Playable Race

This is part of a series in which I try to write a post every day on silly video game topics.  For the list of topics, click here.

This was a difficult one for me for several reasons.  Given a choice of various character options, I will inevitably choose everything, because I am, as we say in the MMO-world, an alt-whore.  I just want to try everything.  But there are some patterns of races I gravitate to, and races I shy away from.

I am not big on “furry” races.  Tails and clawed feet, non-humanoid faces, nope.  Which I guess does limit me from some cool choices.  Khajiit from Skyrim come to mind being a viable option for a variety of builds, and a genuinely interesting race.  The idea of a “Dragon-Tiger” is pretty Napoleon Dynamite but I’m honest enough with myself to admit that I am just juvenile enough to try it.  Still, if it has fur, tails, claws, no thanks.

Shorties are another no-go.  Perhaps that makes me a horrible person, but I like to see armor and clothes on my avatar in games, and short races tend to be a bit compressed.  I’ll admit, Gnomes are pretty boss, and I do have an Asura in GW2, but they are far from my favorite.  Hunch-backed characters/races fall in this same categories (WOW’s Orcs, Forsaken & Tauren, I’m looking at YOU.)

So what does that leave me with?  Something with a blend of fun powers (or good stats) that meets my aesthetic criteria.  Wood Elves from Everquest, Half Elves from EQ2, Norn from GW2, Bretons from Skyrim.  My two favorite from WOW were my human paladin (mostly because at the time that was the only option other than Dwarf) and my female orc shaman (for reasons I won’t get into here!)