Friday, October 25th, 2013
Computer Game #2: “Warcraft II” (1996)
Long before World of Warcraft borgified the internet, Warcraft was a clever and humorous real-time strategy game where you chopped down trees, built castles, raised troops and raided your buddies’ kingdoms. While you could take on the missions laid out like chapters in a sprawling narrative, the real fun of the game — as always — was playing against your friends, no matter where they were. Warcraft II’s battle.net helped coordinate team play in the early days of the web, and enabled you to join forces with a co-worker and beat up your brother in Baltimore. Good times.
Monday, October 7th, 2013
Computer Game #9: “Starcraft” (1998)
Blizzard didn’t invent the Real Time Strategy (RTS) game, but they perfected it with Starcraft. Set in the far future, humans and two very different alien races battled for control of the galaxy. You could run any of the three races (each with their own unique strategies) and play against up to 8 other gamers, in teams or individually, over LANs or on the Internet. Find resources, build factories, create armies and launch attacks against your opponent, while they tried to do the same to you.
With Starcraft you could build and control hundreds of units, all with different abilities, sending them in battle or ordering them to lie in wait to ambush your buddies. Like every other game, ever, it was best when played against friends, talking trash in text or in person (although the Koreans apparently took it to a whole nuther level with professional teams.)
Thursday, August 22nd, 2013
Computer Game #14: “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” (1989)
While you could play against a single opponent from the earliest days of Pong, games that allowed you to take on a multitude of friends were a rare thing. Back before there were fast modems, LANs, and real-time strategy software, the only way you and your buddies could play a computer game together was via the hotseat. Each gamer would take a turn in front of the same computer while everyone waited in the next room, usually talking trash and how they were going to wipe out your army next turn. All of your plotting, scheming, and attacking would have to planned and executed quickly, and it wasn’t uncommon to hear diabolical cackling come from the person in the hotseat — either that or copious swearing, when they realized you had just wiped out their army the previous turn.
The best of these hotseat games was “Romance of the Three Kingdoms,” a rich, dense wargame set in 3rd century China. For all the limitations of the hardware and software, you (and up to a half dozen other players) could still recruit hundreds of historical characters in your bid to take over ancient China. You also had to make sure your followers were happy, your fields full of rice and your people safe from flooding. With the right group of gamers, like we had a couple of afternoons on the Amiga in a friend’s basement, it could be a chaotic, challenging and hilarious session. RTK was so successful it is now in its 12th version, and is available on the iPhone, playable against anyone anywhere. While no doubt faster, it probably doesn’t give you the same experience at the hotseat, with your friend cackling in the next room as he burns your crops.