Do you remember that very first game you ever played till the end? Most of you probably will. Most of you will just have had a flashback to that specific game. The anger, the inability to understand, the disgust, but on the other hand the sense of achieving the ultimate goal, the thrill, even the weird sense of arousal the moment you finally understand what you have been doing wrong all that time.
To me, that one game would be Commander Keen. To be specific: Commander Keen 4: Aliens ate my babysitter. It started as a demo version, bought for what would now be €0,25, on floppy disk. I remember everything.
At first, i didn’t find too much joy in playing that game. I hated it, because i didn’t know what i was supposed to do. I tried and tried, but couldn’t get past the 3rd level. It took me years to figure out what i was supposed to do, how i had to defeat that one little bugger (no pun intended, but it was the ladybug that killed me over and over again) to finally get any further. And thinking back at that moment, i realise that was the major joy of the game. Of most ‘old-skool’ games: figuring everything out. Sure, it took a lot of time, but that gave me the opportunity to try out other games. xArgon, for instance. Same idea, different layout. I’m talking of the time when cruddy graphics were considered beautiful.
I, for one, still believe this. The best games ever made didn’t rely on graphics quality. Partially because the technology wasn’t thát good yet, but mostly, because they didn’t have to. Nowadays, the gaming industry is focussed mainly on how things look, next-gen gaming advertises about being able to show even more surface particles, to make round edges smoother, while they used to work with sprites. Just a few images to be able to express walking, running, jumping and shooting. And quite frankly, i believe that’s all you need. I don’t need my character to look human, i need to be able to feel his/her story. I need to be able to become them. And though graphics might make it easier to experience the surroundings, it doesn’t bring me any closer to my character.
I know i’m pissing off some so-called hardcore gamers, but i truly believe that most people who call themselves hardcore or pro gamers have no idea how good games used to be. Take WoW, for instance. People who spend their entire day farming for gold and experience call themselves hardcore. But i dare the lot of them to play and finish Diablo 2 (same studio) in all 3 difficulties. Though i have to admit i used a glitch to beat Hell difficulty, i can still honestly say that i did. And the best part of it all? A friend introduced me.
Most games i have played so far have been introduced to me by friends or ex-friends. Some with a brief explanation of the controls, some without. I bought Diablo 2 for about €5,- on sale in a shop that usually doesn’t sell games, and i have to say, that was €5 well spent. I can remember the date i bought the game (februari 13th 2002), and i still play it on a regular basis. I only ever saw the friend play it about 3 times, but i was sold immediately. The graphics are meh, the storyline could be better, but the characters are so good, i can almost feel the heat when my favorite character (sorceress ftw) breathes fire at her foes. I can actually feel a tremble in my feet the moment her summoned meteor hits the ground.
And it’s not just with that character. Feel the power as your necromancer summons poison-throwing skeleton mages, the pride you take in having your paladin boost the party with health regeneration, or the raw force when you turn your barbarian into an all-destructing grizzly bear. I could go on and on.
Diablo 3 didn’t have that feeling anymore. I had been waiting on diablo 3 ever since i first completed Diablo 2 in june 2002, and finally it was there. I bought it (bargain, 46,- on the release date), i started it, and that’s where the initial problems started. You need an authenticator. You need to show that you really are who you say you are. Now i partially understand this, as you can auction items for real money, but why not make that the only place you need that authenticator?
Oh well, i started the game, and was shocked immediately. Some of you might shrug and read on when i say this, but i’m sure some of you will agree that the following is a huge mistake by Blizzard: they changed the color of Mana.
Now i’m not too picky about the games i try, but specific types of games have certain unwritten rules. One of the major unwritten rules of roleplaying games (RPGs) is that mana, the source of your magical powers, is either rainbow-colored or blue. Not purple, not white, not yellow and definitely not orange. I grew up woth blue mana, because i grew up with PC gaming rather than console gaming. (If i’m not mistaken, in the Final Fantasy series, mana (or limit) was rainbow colored once full).
Another rule is that you don’t change the scenery of a game series. You can upgrade it, enhance it even, but you just don’t change it. In this aspect as well, Diablo 3 failed to satisfy. The map, the scenery, even the references to the previous parts, they didn’t make any sense compared to those previous parts. Instead of roaming around, even the first act of Diablo 3 is suddenly filled with narrow paths, staircases that seem too logical to be built in a post-apocalyptic world, it just doesn’t make sense to me the way Diablo 2 did.
But the biggest problem, and to me that mostly is the reason why true gaming is dead: online games.
Do you remember the time you had to have a second controller on your sega dreamcast, snes or even xBox classic to play multiplayer? Well, not anymore. Now you can connect to anyone on the world (depending on what the game thinks would be your best connection) to play. Campaign mode has never been so uninteresting, because you won’t level up! Now i know there have been game-modes like Survival or Zombies in the CoD series, but does that really cover it? Well, i can tell from experience, it doesn’t. And besides that, even those game-modes are more or less based on multiplayer. The only good single player mode there is in that series is Combat Training. But wait, what a shock, you don’t level there either. You already have everything from the very start. No prestige mode, no unlock tokens, no extra classes, just pick your favorite loadout and shoot some bots. Bots who don’t play by the rules, btw.
I guess what i’m trying to say is this: where have all the non-explained single player games gone? And if they’re still here, why don’t we hear from them? I think the last true single-player game i’ve played (besides sleeping dogs, which was the free game with gold last month) was Raptor: Call of the Shadows. Look it up, it’s a great game, hours of fun guaranteed, and made in 1994. So yes, another old-skool game. But why would that matter? I prefer improving myself in an old game over shouting at people who can’t hear me, because the server is of such a quality that everyone keeps killing me while i’m already long gone. There is no lag in offline gaming, and thus less annoyance. But we don’t give it a chance anymore. We want to be ‘social’. We want to rage.