Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 23, 2012
Hopefully it’ll be a short (or at least non-permanent) hiatus. I enjoyed many an old-school CRPG vicariously through his reports. I probably enjoyed them a good deal more through his articles than if I’d played them myself, in the case of many, many not-so-great games. Even if this project is abandoned forever, it’s a treasure trove of recent play-through essays on more than five dozen vintage PC RPGs as it stands, which is freaking incredible.
I mean, seriously. He put in a minimum of six hours per game, and played many to completion, in the manner in which they appeared to be “intended to be played” – no spoilers, no walkthroughs, no backups or otherwise “cheating” (well, almost never).
These have been valuable insights for many reasons:
#1 – A modern perspective on vintage games: This is a guy who loves vintage RPGs, but loves modern games just as much, and thus has been able to look at these older titles without using too much of the rose-tinted lenses of nostalgia, and without disdain for anything less than cutting-edge technology.
#2 – His GIMLET rating system is unabashedly subjective, yet it manages to allow a comparison of games from different eras with each other. Most other systems tend to be far more biased towards newer games or (rarely) classic titles. I printed the article describing the rating criteria and posted it on the wall by my desk near the latter stages of Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon development, as I felt his points for his system were a valuable checklist of critical elements to make a great RPG.
#3 – These articles are a treasure trove of early RPG innovation and concepts that have been lost in the modern era. And admittedly, a few of ’em probably deserve to remain lost, but that’s what happens with innovation. People always look at the successful fruits of innovation and creativity and forget about the less-successful stuff, and forget that most innovations aren’t really that great. Nevertheless, there are a lot of fascinating ideas and experiments out there that I feel were lost / forgotten for reasons other than its inherent worthiness, and could be dusted off and revisited by an enterprising indie today.
#4 – Likewise, it’s useful to see all the crap games that came out in this era. I guess I shouldn’t say “crap games,” because it seems only a few were genuine garbage. But it’s informative to see all the games that didn’t find their way into the top 10% or so “classics” that are typically remembered, and maybe get an inkling as to why they didn’t make it. In some cases, there are some real gems that apparently just didn’t have enough marketing push to succeed against their more popular brethren. In many other cases, it looks like they had plenty of potential but were hampered by one or more issues that really held the game back. Some were just poorly implemented but had some clever ideas. As a designer and developer, these are possibly more interesting to look at than the successful “classics.”
#5 – And from a broad view, it’s awesome to see what an incredible legacy there is for the genre – even restricting the subset to only those games made for DOS-based machines of the 1980s. The spectrum and quantity of titles is amazing. And in some ways, it does make me sad to see the genre as restricted as it stands in 2012, though the indies seem to be really getting it together to revive the tradition today.
Anyway, I hope this proves to be a short hiatus, as I really enjoyed getting my vicarious fix. But while my time is generally pretty tight (isn’t that true of most of us?), I do have plenty of my own vintage adventures to enjoy in the meantime!
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