Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

The Dream Game

Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 16, 2015

spaceduel4I used to have this recurring dream about an old arcade machine that I’d just discovered, or one that I’d somehow forgotten about. Why an arcade game? I think it’s rooted in that magical era of the arcade. Sort of in the same way we get the (manufactured?) urban legend of Polybius, that era kind of inspired that feeling of anything being possible with custom machines constantly changing inventory. You’d find a game in some arcade or gas station on the road once and possibly never see it again. That’s not even including the test venues for games in late development – sort of the “beta test” sites.

Now obviously, if a game was really good, it would generally become popular and be found everywhere. While there was always a chance of an overlooked gem, on the balance the seemingly rare, obscure games were not the best the industry had to offer. But that didn’t change this nagging feeling that somewhere out there was the ultimate game  … maybe a bespoke classic. For me, this possibly stemmed from the fact that this did happen occasionally – maybe not in the epic, mind-blowing sense, but that was the whole point of going to the arcade: finding that really cool game that would devour your quarters or tokens voraciously because it was just so cool and fun. For me, those games bore names like Space Duel, Sinistar, Star WarsStarfire, Shinobi (lots of “S” names there…), Defender StargateJoust, TempestRoad BlastersBlack Tiger, and others. I didn’t remain enamored for long… eventually I’d discover the limits of the game, and go off in search of the next super-cool thing.

Back in the “Golden Age” of the arcades, these machines were significantly more capable than home systems of the equivalent era. The (potentially) custom hardware meant anything was theoretically possible.

So this recurring dream I used to have was about some lone arcade game that I’d discover in some pizza parlor or the back corner of an arcade somewhere. It’s absolutely amazing, with graphics way beyond the ability of machines of the era. There’s a whole world of exploration inside the thing (one of the key things to keep me interested in a game). And I wonder why nobody’s ever heard of this thing and I’m only now discovering it.

Well…. it’s been a while since the last time I had the dream. Maybe I’ll never have it again. The mystique is gone for me – possibly all the way down to the subconscious level – for six reasons:

#1 – The indie era has far surpassed the arcade era in terms of output. I think there are more indie games released on mobile and PC in a single week than an entire decade in the heyday of the arcade era. If I’m looking for diamonds in the rough or forgotten treasures, there’s better places to look, and they generally look and play nicer than half the arcade games of the era.

#2 – Modern game technology has blown away the impossible technological dreams of the past. The last time I had the dream, my PC was quite capable of imitating what I saw in the dream. Those limits have long been transcended, and we’re even potentially on the cusp of the VR revolution now, so there’s not a ton to be blown away by on that front.

#3 – The gaming hobby is glutted. It’s less a case of searching for buried treasure now as being buried by them. There are a plethora of great games to play now, really riveting stuff, and my problem is more having time to play them.

polybiusScreen#4 – MAME has revealed a number of long-forgotten classics, including at least one that I remember seeing and never playing, but only imagining how it would be. And honestly? My imagination was far better. Anyway… hunting those old games is easy. There are still some forgotten gems in there, and I still discover new games, but my expectations are quite modest.

#5 – I’m a PC Gamer at heart. There’s not a whole lot out there designed to smack you down in 1-2 minutes to a quarter installments which really holds my interest. “Nintendo-hard” is not my thing. I like my games a bit more leisurely paced with a lot of depth.

#6 – I’m an indie now. I make my own games. I might consider this a bigger reason except for the fact that I’ve always made my own games, even back then. But I was always limited by technology. Although I still am, it’s not nearly the impediment it once was.

Like I said, it’s been a few years since I had the dream. Maybe my subconscious mind has finally gotten the message. Or I’ve successfully choked my inner 14-year-old to death. I dunno.  Now I think my big dream would be to make a game that other people dream about. THAT would be awesome.




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