Five Games I Want to See Revamped March 15, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest.
Tags: Autoduel, Bolo, Civilization II, Diablo, Nostalgia
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Of course, there were other games that came to mind. I was tempted to list any version of SimCity besides the current one, just because. GetFudgedPopulation 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?