Five Games I Want to See Revamped

The announcement that Hidden Path is doing a revamp of Age of Empires II, along with such refreshes as Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition, naturally made me think about what other games ought to get cleaned up and brought forward into the current age.

Here are the five that I want to see.

1 – Civilization II

Civilization II remains my favorite version of Civilization.  I have continued playing this through all the follow up versions.  There is a simplicity to it that gets lost in the later games that I find quite endearing.  And by reports I am not alone in continuing to play.  One of the most popular posts on the blog is about how to get Civ II to run on Windows 7 64-bit.

Which, of course, brings up the question of why it even needs an update if it runs already.  It doesn’t even look horrible and thanks to the Microsoft programming doctrines of the time, it runs in a window that resizes to whatever screen resolution you need.

A simpler time...

A simpler time…

Well, it runs, but not without difficulty at times.  You have to get the right version of the game and use somebody’s home grown patch to get it to run on 64-bit.  And you still need the CD in the drive to play, and I’ll admit right now that I managed to lose mine… again.  And there are a number of long standing AI issues that could be cleared up along the way.

Basically, I would like to buy a fresh copy that works on my machine.  I don’t care if it comes from Steam or GOG.com, I will make that purchase.

Why It Won’t Happen

The game was published back when Sid Meier was doing games for the now defunct MicroProse, so I am not even sure who owns the rights to the code itself, though Sid did manage to wrest the Civ name from them.  Sort of.  There were issues.  And even if Sid and Firaxis owned the rights free and clear, they would much rather you buy Civilization V and some of their DLC than some code that is going on 20 years old here.

2 – Diablo

Again, back to a simpler time.  My first thought was Diablo II, but that actually runs on my system okay and doesn’t look that bad.  So no work to be done there.  But the first game in the series?

I can almost get the original Diablo running on my machine.  There are a couple of tricks to getting the palettes to load correctly.  The game loads, you can play for a bit, but it is about as happy as a summoned demon about the whole thing.  The palettes are muddy, the lighting clearly has another agenda, and things lock up at inopportune moments.  And the whole thing is presented in a very chunky 640×480 on my big monitor.

A simpler time... in HELL

A simpler time… in HELL

But it is nearly there.  You can just get a taste.  You can hear the sound effects.  You get a sense for a moment how dark and moody the caverns under Tristam were.  I think a rework of this would do well.  And, of course, Blizzard owns it all and could roll a fresh version is the desired.  I would subscribe to another year of WoW to get it.

Why It Won’t Happen

I see a vision of Mike Morhaime explaining how Diablo III is really the superior product while dismissing the idea of a rework of the original.  Blizzard never moves backwards.  Old products get some support, but once a new version is out, the old one is pretty much dead to them.  This is why there will never be an official version of the WoW Emerald Dream server.  Blizzard just doesn’t do that.

Plus, I am not sure I would trust Blizzard with this.  They didn’t even make the original.  That was the long-gone team at Blizzard North.

3 – Bolo

At this point I suspect that most of you are going, “Huh?  What is Bolo?”

Bolo was a fun little networked tank game on the Mac back when adding network capabilities to your typical DOS box took an expensive package from Novell.  Created by brilliant networking programmer Stuart Cheshire, we used to play this for hours on Friday nights at the office.  There was an interface that allowed people to create AIs to drive players, and we would set up a series of AI boxes in the lab and have horrible, bloody, never ending battles.  Great stuff.

WinBolo

WinBolo

Why It Won’t Happen

Nobody could make any money from it.  Mr. Cheshire said he was done with it ages ago, but I don’t think that means he’ll let other people take it over.  And, honestly, as a game, it had some issues with coming to a final resolution.  It was hard to win.  Basically, one team generally grew tired first and gave up.  And if it was AIs versus humans, well, the AIs never got tired.

4 – Auto Duel

Autoduel was the great mid-80s computer game manifestation of Car Wars from Steve Jackson Games.  It took the vehicular combat game and forced it into the computer RPG mold quite successfully.  There was an unfolding story and goals and side tasks and character development and buying new crap to bolt onto your car all wrapped into one game.

Autoduel

Autoduel

I spent hours sitting in front of my Apple II playing this game.  It was great.  What could possibly go wrong.

Why It Won’t Happen

Well, to start with, it was an Apple ][ game. (Along with other such now defunct 80s computer platforms.)  You cannot, would not, should not literally translate it to a version that runs on today’s machines.  Which means that you would need to re-imagine it in the way that the Wasteland 2 group is trying to redo Wasteland.  But I have my doubts on that.  It might be that this (and Wasteland) were only great in the context of the limited computer hardware we had at the time.  And… you know… Auto Assault.

Plus, if that weren’t enough, Steve Jackson Games owns the rights and doesn’t seem to have any interest in such a venture, seeming content to work on their own board game nostalgia instead.

5 – EverQuest

This one is probably the least realistic as well as being the one to which people are most likely to take offense.

Here we are, the day before EverQuest’s 14th birthday.  The game has a huge amount of content added in over 19 different expansions.  It has grown, expanded, and adapted over time, first setting trends and later following them.  It has gone free to play, so money isn’t even a barrier to playing the game.

SOE has worked to remove many barriers to getting people to play one of the great MMORPGs of the 20th century.  But one huge barrier still remains.

The client.

I don’t mind the bad linoleum textures, the primitive animations, the intermittent sounds, the decrepit character models, or some of the crazy, grindy game play.

Never an immersion breaking name in EQ!

Textures gone wild

But every time I go back to play the game, wrestling with the damn client is a royal pain.  They have tried to bring it up to date or to adhere to conventions that came into fashion for MMOs after it shipped.  Things like WASD movement keys as a default.

And they have managed it quite well.  But the client feels like it has too many features stuffed into it, while still showing some of the flaws it had back in 1999.  For example, how frickin’ big does the contact area around my character need to be.  I am constantly trying to click on something off to one side of him and ending up with him as the selection.

So I dream of an all new client, designed and built from scratch that delivers a smooth and modern user experience.  And it pains me to say that, as the cardinal sin of every young, and many old, programmers is the heartfelt need to reject anybody elses code, opting to rewrite things from scratch.  But I cannot get to my desired state by continuing to pile on to the old code base.  A fresh start is needed.

In my mind, I see what is essentially EQ running with WoW’s client.

But I would accept the EverQuest II client frankly.

Why It Won’t Happen

There is no money in it.  Having gone free to play, if it doesn’t come from the cash shop, it doesn’t bring in any money.  The only exceptions are subscriptions and expansions.  The client is free to download.

And, of course, even if there were money in it, it would be a huge operation and many a company has gone under rewriting code rather than pushing forward with new features on top of old spaghetti.  See Netscape.   The costs would be huge, and the benefits likely marginal at best.  And I may want a better EQ client, but I suspect I am in a slim minority.  Plus, how well did such revamps serve other games in the past?

Other Games

Of course, there were other games that came to mind.  I was tempted to list any version of SimCity besides the current one, just becauseGetFudgedPopulation FTW!  But we already have SimCity 4 on Steam.

I was also wondering about Ultima III and the original Wizardry.  But I suspect that neither would make good games today.  Or they might make fine iOS/Android games, but not something that would compare favorably to what we have available now on our desktops.  Basically, almost anything from the pre-Macintosh or pre-Windows era is likely mired in the time before GUI and has to be re-imagined to be brought forward.  Only dedicated hobbyists are likely to show any interest in games from that time.

Still, that does leave a good gap in time, and a whole pile of games that do adhere to at least some of the standards to which we have become accustomed and which could be reworked, polished up, and re-released.

What else should be on the list?  What would you like to see reworked and brought up to date?

23 thoughts on “Five Games I Want to See Revamped

  1. Matt

    I used a virtual PC running win XP to run Diablo 1. It works perfectly, but you do still have the tiny 640×480 window to play with. On the other hand, 640×480 in a window is a lot more pleasant than 640×480 full screen. In any case, you do need a copy of WinXP from…somewhere…

    Diablo 1 isn’t even listed in the games section of Battle.net…It’s like they forgot it existed. Battle.net isn’t actually bad about legacy games, giving you a way to keep them around without fooling with discs and such, but IIRC D2 is as far back as it goes.

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  2. Mazer

    Bolo! Wow, that’s nostalgia. The “Ahg, they got me!” from killing the little workers is still stuck in my brain to this day. What happened to the base building / multiplayer vehicle battle genre? There used to be Wulfram II which seems to have died, now we have, uh… Starhawk? Ech.

    The client issues you raise about Everquest are what keep me out of Vanguard despite my dear love of it’s crafting system; it boggles me that every game doesn’t allow 1) windowed or windowed fullscreen mode and 2) arbitrary resolution.

    I know enough about game programming to understand it’s not that simple, but still… let your game age gracefully.

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  3. nelsonminar

    I was just thinking of Bolo, although the *other* Bolo, the 1982 Apple ][ game which was awesome. Anyway, one of the guys who made Realm of the Mad God is in early alpha stages on a new game that’s a bit like Bolo: http://grid12.com/

    I’ll see your Bolo proposal and raise you one Netrek. I played a whole lot of that back in 1992 or so and it was a hell of a good game. 16 player multiplayer (on X windows terminals!) and a really nice mix of tactical space dogfights and strategic territory takeover.

    Also from the long-long ago of X Windows games; xbattle. Weird game, sort of an RTS, it’d be fun to revisit.

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  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Nelsonminar – I never played the *other* Bolo, but it always comes up when you talk about this Bolo.

    I remember Nettrek. There was a very slick native Mac OS client that we used to play with in the lab back in the early 90s. I recall that our VP of Engineering at the time knew the dev who made it and claimed that a button was added just for him. He could never stop his ship fully… all that reverse thrust mucking about and vectors… so there was a “stop the ship” button that would automatically reverse thrust at the correct angle and bring the ship to a halt.

    On my list of wants is also a Windows version of Strategic Conquest. Many have tried to duplicate it, but none have managed to capture its elegant simplicity.

    @Mazer – We used to play Bolo with a terminally neat engineer. I would kill his worker every game by finding one of his nice patches of road, planting a mine, detonating it causing an crater, then planting another mine in the crater. He would see this imperfection and send his worker out to fix it, only to die on the mine.

    Yeah, there are too many better performing clients out there now. It makes it difficult to deal with some of the awkwardness.

    @Matt – Yeah, I am not sure you can, for example, get Warcraft II going, even though that was patched to use BNet after StarCraft came out. But Diablo II and StarCraft I can download and play from BNet.

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  5. NoAstronomer

    Here’s my five, none of which is going to happen…

    5. M1 Tank Platoon. The main enjoyment I get from World of Tanks is remembering how cool M1 was.

    4. European Air War – IL2 Sturmovik came close but in EAW I flew escort missions across the North Sea in a P-38 without using time acceleration just so I could say I did it.

    3. X-COM – The recent remake being just a pale imitation.

    2. Gary Grigsby’s War In Russia – None of the other games I’ve seen have come close to WIR’s blend of a complex game wrapped in a deceptively simple UI.

    and…

    1. Star Wars Galaxies. Well maybe not. I’ll just leave that one as a pleasant memory. How about X-Wing vs Tie Fighter instead?

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  6. mrrx

    I’m not sure you really want these games remade. It already happened for Civilization II, Diablo, and Everquest. Ditto Wizardry and Ultima III.

    I understand where you’re coming from, that the sequels were not up to par, but if they couldn’t get remade acceptably the first time why would it be any different today?

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  7. lazybasterd

    You forgot X-Wing and TIE Fighter.

    Regarding Baldur’s Gate… I think I’ve bought that game 5 times at various points so I can’t yet bring myself drop $20 on the Enhanced Edition. Not when TuTu gives me the major selling point.

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  8. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Mrrx – No no no. I don’t want them remade. That is exactly what I do not want, for the reasons you point at. I want them revamped so that those games will play… or at least play better… on current machines… without being remade.

    That is why I gave two examples at the top, Age of Kings II HD Edition and Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition. Both of those are the original games with just updates to graphics and supported screen resolutions and the like. Basically, a bit more than GOG.com does for games so that they will run well, look okay, and what not.

    @lazybasterd – I only bought it when it first came out, so I’m good for another run at it.

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  9. belghast

    I pretty much agree with all the games :) The biggest one lately has been EQ1. Every so often I get a twinge wanting to play it again, especially now that I have a station account… but I just cannot get past the horrible client. I don’t mind the graphics, I am completely fine with them. I just wish they would update the client to function somewhat like a modern era MMO client.

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  10. Jenks

    EQ has a few 3rd person cameras for screenshot taking. If you’re trying to play the game in them, you’re doing it wrong! I currently play EQ on the Al’Kabor server which is frozen in time in the Planes of Power era, and truly free to play (not ‘f2p’). Technically it’s for mac players, but with minimal effort you can connect from a pc.

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  11. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Jenks – I know about the different camera modes. I did a post about them at one point. I am not talking about them. And in the Live client, the camera now works differently that what you probably are experiencing on Al’Kabor, so that likely isn’t even applicable anymore.

    Ah, here is what I wrote about the camera modes:

    1- First person that can zoom out to third person, but I cannot pan the camera
    2- Show my character’s bald spot, if any
    3- Check the back of my character’s head to see if it is male pattern baldness or not
    4- Fix the camera in a single, random direction
    5- Same thing, different direction
    6- Awkwardly close chase mode

    While I think those are still in, the default camera mode is now like EQII or WoW.

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  12. bhagpuss

    @Jenks Could you run through, or link to, the “minimal effort” means of playing on Al Kabor from a PC? I looked into it a while back and wasn’t able to find a way that looked easy enough for me to attempt it.

    I played EQ only a few days ago and I felt at home within a few minutes. I’m pretty happy with the way it runs, which is more than I can say about some other, newer MMOs. I did find the direction controls a bit weird at first but I soon got the hang of them again.

    The “clicking on yourself by mistake” thing is and always was very irritating, though.

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  13. Aufero

    I’d forgotten about the EQ camera. I played EQ almost solely in first person except when I wanted a screenshot. Switching to third person for WoW (even though the camera was designed for it, which the EQ camera definitely wasn’t) took some getting used to.

    As for the original topic, I’d love to play the original Bard’s Tale again. (Since the IP is owned by EA, I think I’m out of luck on that one.) Failing that, I wouldn’t mind playing some of the early Infocom games, like the Enchanter trilogy or Steve Meretzky’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy adaptation.

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  14. Aufero

    @Sid 6.7: I forgot all about SunDog! I played a ton of it in the mid-80s – It’s the reason I keep buying games like S.P.A.Z and FTL. (Both of which are good, but they’re not SunDog.)

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  15. Chaosrook

    Sir, I had mentioned before in a much older post when you were looking for a updated copy of Civilization 2 that they did infact come out with a enchanced version called Civilization 2 Test of Time. While old in itself at this point it does have upgraded graphics and actual animation compared to its original counterpart.

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  16. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Chaosrook – But can I buy a copy of Test of Time on the store shelf? Will it work on Win7 64-bit? Will it get patches and updates?

    For Civ II I am perhaps less interested in a graphical revamp and more interested in a version updated to support current operating systems so that I can go on playing it for another decade.

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  17. Chaosrook

    Sir, as to continued support and patching…updates and the sort, I cannot say as I have not touched the game in many years. I can however look into the fact of if it will work on a Windows 7 64 bit system, as that is what I am currently running and I do own the game. Finding it for sell may be more difficult however. In a change of direction, did you ever get or try the Fantasic worlds expanstion. I was full of what we would call today as mods/senarios and a modification platform so you could add more units change them and such. I was a very usefull addition to Civilization 2.

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  18. Devilstower

    What I want to see:

    Top of the list: a revised Stellar Emperor. It’s nice that someone has SE / MW running, but I don’t want the old game — I want the old game to inspire a new one. I want a billion stars (hey, memory is cheap). I want exploration to be endless and rewarding. I want the center of the universe to be so overrun with massive high tech civilizations that it would make EVE players run in terror, while the outskirts are still full of fledling colonies and tiny scouts drifing among wonders. I want a universe so big it never becomes end game.

    Second, I want Master of Orion. Not Master of Orion 2, or (shudder) Master of Orion 3. I want an updated MOO, with better graphics, a larger galaxy, and expanded tech tree. But don’t give me unbalanced races, stacks of random events that screw with my strategy, or some blasted alternate dimension that completely ruins the game.

    On the ground-based MOO side, my demands are few. I want the economy of Ultimate Online, the group dynamic of Dark Age of Camelot, and the chracter building of Lord of the Rings. That is all.

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  19. Anonymous

    I reeally liked M1 Tank Platoon and Red storm Rising, the submarine warfare game. I can remember playing them on my Brothers computer that we bought just for gaming, with MCGA graphics ohhhhhhh.

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