Tag Archives: Civilization

Picking My 15 Most Influential Games

Jackie at Kitty Kitty Boom Boom, prompted by lvling life, put up a list of her top 15 video games.

There was a methodology by which you were supposed to generate that list.  It wasn’t supposed to be a big deal.  You were not supposed to spend a lot of time with it.  And, of course, I tossed that aside.  Rather than a quick list of 15 special games, I ended up with my list of the 15 most influential video games in my gaming career so far.

And what do I mean by “influential?”

I mean that they opened up new idea, new genres, or new points of view for me when it came to video games.

Influential does not mean that they were my favorites, the games I played the most in a given genre, or even all that good in a few cases.  So, for example, I have played a LOT more World of Warcraft than EverQuest at this point in my life, and I am not really all that keen to go back to EverQuest.  But EverQuest is the more influential of the two.  Without it, there would be no WoW, and without me playing it in 1999, I might not have made it to WoW.

Anyway, on to the list.

1. Star Trek (1971) – many platforms

Star Trek in vt52

Star Trek in vt52

I have covered this as the first computer video game I ever played.  While incredibly simple, this game showed me the way, let me know that computers were going to be an entertainment device

2. Tank (1974) – Arcade

Tank!

Tank! In Black and white!

This was the game AFTER Pong.  Not that Pong was bad.  Pong was new and fresh when it came out, but I must admit that it did become a little dull after the first pass or two.  And then Tank showed us that man need not entertain himself with virtual paddles alone.  I wouldn’t touch Pong after a while, but Tank was always good.  You just needed somebody to play with.

3. Adventure (1979)  – Atari 2600

This Castle is Timeless!

This Castle is Timeless!

Yes, I got that Atari 2600 for Christmas way back when, but then there was a matter of what to play.  It came with the Combat cartridge, which included Tank.  And I also had Air-Sea Battle and a few others. But the problem was that these games were all unfulfilling unless played with two people.  And then came Adventure.  Not only wasn’t it the usual 27 minor variations on three two-player themes, it was specifically, unashamedly single player only.  Here, loner, good luck storming the castle!  And it had odd behaviors and minor flaws.  I tried putting that magic bridge everywhere and ended up in some strange places.  It also had a random mode, that might just set you up with an unwinnable scenario.  And there was an Easter egg in it.

It was both different and a harbinger of things to come.

4. Castle Wolfenstein (1981) – Apple II

Graphics - 1981

Graphics – 1981

This was the first game that I saw that indicated that I really, really needed to get a computer.  An Apple II specifically, because that was what Gary had.  And he also had Castle Wolfenstein.

It was not an easy game.  You lost.  A lot.  The control system left something to be desired.  You really needed a joystick to play.  And there were so many quirks and strange behaviors that somebody created a utility program a couple years after it came out that basically “fixed” a lot of the worst annoyances.  I bought it gladly.

Achtung! Give me your uniform.

Achtung! Give me your uniform.

But this game was the prototype for many that followed.  You’re in a cell and you need to escape.  You need make your way through the castle, picking up guns, keys, ammunition, German uniforms, and grenades.   Oh, grenades were so much fun.  There were other, later games I considered for this list, but when I broke them down, I often found that Castle Wolfenstein had done it already, in its own primitive way.

5. Wizardry (1981) – Apple II

Apple ][+ The Upgrades Begin

Apple ][+ and Wizardry

Basically, the party based dungeon crawl in computer form.  Monsters, mazes, traps, treasure, combat, and death.  Oh, so much death.  NetHack was a potential for this list, but I realized that randomness and ASCII graphics aside, Wizardry had pretty much everything it did.

And I spent hours playing.  I mapped out the whole game on graph paper, including that one level with all the squares that would turn you around.  The one with the pits of insta-death.  It also taught me the word “apostate.”

6. Stellar Emperor (1985) – Apple II

The GEnie version of MegaWars III at its inception, it was my first foray into multiplayer online games.  I have written about the game, even about winning.

Emperor of the Galaxy

Emperor of the Galaxy

But it was the online, playing with other people, usually the same people, making friends and enemies and having ongoing relationships that sold the game.  Again, it was primitive, even in its day, with ASCII based terminal graphics.  But there was magic in the mixture.

7. Civilization (1991) – Mac/Windows

The flat world of original Civ

The flat world of original Civ

Sid Meier was already something of a star by the time Civilization came out, but this cemented things as far as I was concerned.  I was considering putting Civilization II on the list rather than this.  Once I got Civ II, I never went back and played the original.

But that wasn’t because the original was crap.  That was because the sequel built on what was great in the original.  It was purely an evolutionary move.  But it was the original that hooked me, so that has to get the nod for influential.

8. Marathon (1994) – Mac

Spooky

Spooky

For me, this was the defining first person shooter.  There was a single player campaign.  There was a multiplayer deathmatch mode.  There were a variety of weapons.  There was a map editor and some mods and an online community that built up around it.  Everything after Marathon was just an incremental improvement for me.

Marathon on my iPad

Marathon on my iPad

There have been better graphics, better rendering engines, different weapons, plenty of variety on arena options, all sorts of updates on match making and connectivity, but in the end those are just updates to what Marathon already did.  To this day, I still sometimes say “I’ll gather” when creating a game or match for other people to join.  That was the terminology from 1994.  I wonder what Bungie has done since this?

9. TacOps  (1994) – Mac/Windows

Before video games I played a lot of Avalon Hill war games.  Those sorts of games made the natural transition to the computer, which was ideal for handling much of the housekeeping chores.  However, in the transition, some old conventions got dragged along as well, like hexes.  And I hate hexes.  Yes, on a board game you need to use that hexgrid for movement.  I could accept that for Tobruk set up on the kitchen table.  But a computer was fully capable of handling movement without such an arbitrary overlay.  A couple of games tried it, but they tended to fall into the more arcade-ish vein, which wasn’t what I wanted.

And then I picked up a copy of TacOps.

Giving orders on an open map

Giving orders on an open map

I bought it on a complete whim, picking up the very rare initial boxed version off the shelf at ComputerWare before it went completely to online sales.  And it was a revelation.  Hey, terrain governs movement.  And cover.  And visibility.  That plus simultaneous movement phases rather than turn based combat meant wonderful chaos on the field.  The game was good enough that the military of several countries contracted for special versions of the game to use as a training tool.

I originally had Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin on my list.  That is where Battlefront.com really came into their own with the Combat Mission series.  But aside from 3D graphics, TacOps had done it all already.

10. TorilMUD (1993) – various platforms

Have I not written enough about the last 20 years of TorilMUDPrecursor to the MMORPG genre for me.  Without it I might not have understood that camping mobs for hours at a stretch was “fun.”

11. Diablo (1996) – Windows

A simpler time... in HELL

A simpler time… in HELL

I have written quite a bit about my fondness for Diablo II, while I haven’t gone back to play the original Diablo since the sequel came out.  But I wouldn’t be still talking about Diablo II or comparing the merits of Diablo III, Torchlight II, and Path of Exile had the original not been something very, very special.

12. Total Annihilation (1997) – Windows

Total Annihilation

Total Annihilation

Total Annihilation was not the first RTS game I played.  I am pretty sure I played Dune II and Warcraft before it.  It is not the RTS game I have played the most.  I am sure I have more hours in both StarCraft and Age of Kings.  But it was the first RTS game that showed me that the genre could be about something more than a very specific winning build order.  All the units, on ground, in the air, on the water, were amazing.  The player maps were amazing, and player created AIs were even better.  The 3D terrain and line of sight and all that was wonderful.  And new units kept getting released.  And you could nuke things.  I still find the game amazing.

13. EverQuest (1999) – Windows

Fifteen years later and nothing has made my mouth hang open like it did on the first day I logged into Norrath.  I can grouse about SOE and the decisions they have made and the state of the genre, but that day back in 1999 sunk the hook into me good and hard and it hasn’t worked itself loose since.  Pretty much what this whole blog is about.

Froon!

Froon!

14. Pokemon Diamond (2006) – Nintendo DS

Before we got my daughter a DS lite and a copy of Pokemon Diamond, Pokemon was pretty much just a cartoon on TV and a card game somebody’s kid at work played.  Sure, I knew who Pikachu was, but I had no real clue about the video game.

And then in watching my daughter play, I had to have my own DS and copy of the game.  Make no mistake, despite its reputation as a kids game, Pokemon can be deep and satisfying.  It tickles any number of gamer needs.  My peak was in HeartGold/SoulSilver, where I finally caught them all.

Back when 493 was all

Back when 493 was all

While I have stopped playing, that doesn’t mean I don’t think about buying a 3DS XL and a copy of Pokemon X or Y and diving back into the game.  It is that good.

15. LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy (2006) – many platforms

Filling this last slot… tough to do.  There are lots of potential games out there.  For example, I like tower defense games, but which one sold me on the idea?  But for a game that launched me into a lot of play time over a series of titles, I have to go with LEGO Star Wars II.

LEGO Star Wars II

LEGO Star Wars II

That is where Travelers Tales really hit their stride.  The original LEGO Star Wars tried to hard to be a serious and difficult game.  With this second entry, they realized the power of simply being fun and irreverent.  That was the magic.

And I only have to look at the shelf of console games we have to see that LEGO games dominate as a result of this one title. They have evolved, and in some ways I think they have lost a bit of their charm by trying to do too much.  We got the LEGO Movie Game for the PS3 and it didn’t have the joy of LEGO Star Wars II.  Still, 8 years down the road, the influence of LEGO Star Wars II got us to try it.

Fools Errand?

Of course, putting limits like an arbitrary number on a list like this means it must ring false in some way.  And what does influential really mean?  I know what I said, but I can look back at that list and nitpick that, say, Castle Wolfenstein might not belong.  And what about genres I missed, like tower defense?  I could make the case that Defense Grid: The Awakening belongs on the list.  What about games like EVE Online?  Actually, I explained that one away to myself, seeing EVE as sort of the bastard child of Stellar Emperor and EverQuest or some such.  And while TorilMUD is so powerful in my consciousness, would I have played it had it not been for Gemstone? Where does NBA Jams fit?  And what other Apple II games did I miss?  Should Ultima III be on there?  Lode Runner Karateka?

And somehow this all ties into my post about platforms and connectivity options I have had over the years.

Anyway, there is my list, and I stand firm behind it today.  Tomorrow I might change my mind.  You are welcome to consider this a meme and take up the challenge of figuring out your 15 most influential games.

Others who have attempted to pick their 15, each with their own history:

Civ V – Some Progress

I thought I was on to something today that would help with my Civilization V problems.

After shutting down all unnecessary processes on the machine, I decided to run try altering the run properties for the game.

My logon account is already in the Administrator group, so I didn’t think that would change anything, but XP has an option to run without protection from unauthorized activity.

I unchecked that box, wondering if it would change anything.

Really, it is hard to say if it did, or if just random chance or some other action got things going, but things did get going better than ever.

I managed to play 89 turns.

I was far enough into the game that I was starting to learn something about playing.

Most Turns Ever

I was invested enough in the game that I will probably go back and try to play from one of the save points.

However, after turn 89 the game hung.  Something in the executable was stuck in a loop as it was again driving the processor full blast, although only one of the core this time, but nothing was happening.  I let it churn for about 10 minutes, then force quit the process.

Of course, I was unable to launch the game again after that.

There seems to be two hurdles to playing.

First, there is launching the game.  This seems to get hung up on something, as the game ab ends four out of five times before I get to the main menu.

Then there is actually keeping the game going.  The process gets hung up on something, probably falling through an unhandled  exception over and over again to infinity.  But what the trigger is for that, I have not yet determined.  I’ve spent so little time actually getting to that error.

Still, there was a bit of progress today.  At least Steam rolled over and is actually measuring my play time in approximate hours (2) rather than minutes.

46 Minutes of Civilization V

Civilization II is probably the single player game I have spent the most time playing since I first purchased a computer.

And that is saying something, given the hours I spent, when I have many excess hour to spend, playing games like Wizardry or Ultima III back in the day.

Apple II+ and Wizardry

I played the original game Civilization and was hooked by its game play, so when Civilization II came out I was right there, day one.

Civ II was great, a huge improvement over its predecessor… so much so that I never considered and going back an playing the original game.

This is in contrast to Civilization III and Civilization IV, both of which eventually sent me back to Civ II.

There is a whole post in why I prefer Civ II.  But for the moment I’ll leave it with the simple fact that I can still play the game on my current PC, more than 14 years after it originally shipped.  It runs great and, in a move that seems genius in hindsight, it plays in a standard, re-sizable window so it even takes advantage of the fact that my monitor has gone from 800×600 to 1600×1200 in the intervening time.  There are a few games I could mention that I wish did the same.

But back at launch the game was a beast.

The Civilization franchise has never bought into the Blizzard philosophy of low system requirements.

I don’t think I was able to play the game at its full potential until I picked up a 400MHz Pentium II years later.  But by the time I had a Pentium IV, it ran smooth and fast.  But it was a long time getting there.

And was Civ II stable at launch?  Well, let’s just say that the auto-save feature was there for a good reason.  Resuming games after a crash was a common occurrence.

So when I was tempted into buying Civilization V based somewhat on SynCaine’s posts about it, I was pretty sure the game was going to live up to the Civilization tradition of being a complete beast on day on.

I bought it via Steam, as much as I dislike Valve’s service.  I’ve been screwed by Valve and their requirement that you must have an internet connection to play a single player game in the past. (Yes, that was a long time ago, but I can hold a grudge like no other when I’m in the mood.)

But since Civ V seems to be tied to the service no matter how you buy it, there didn’t seem much point in going another route.

And while I wasn’t happy about it, I certainly wasn’t expecting Steam to mock my misery.

How long have you managed to play?

Five days with the game and I’ve been able to play for 46 minutes.

And a good portion of those minutes were spent waiting while the game sat hung, driving all four cores of my Intel Core 2 Q6600 processor beyond 50% capacity.  I had to bring up Task Manager just to see if the game still had a pulse.

I was not able to play at all for the first day.

It wasn’t until I turned off the intro movie, got into the options and turned down every possible setting to its absolute minimum, picked the default minimum game (changing any game setting is like hitting the fail button), and shut down every possible process on my system that I was able to hit my peak and get 46 turns into a game before it hung.

And I consider myself lucky to have gotten that far.  Most times I just see this at launch.


And there is no recovery, no launching the game again.  It is straight to the Start menu to reboot the system after any failure.  I’ve tried.  There is no hope without a reboot.

Okay, my system is aging, and not so gracefully.  It isn’t at its most stable of late.  But this is ridiculous.

I should have the horsepower to run the game.  My quad 2.4 GHz CPU should be up to the task, being beyond the recommended system requirements, which specify a quad 1.8GHz or better.  Woe to those who have only a single or dual core system.

And running with everything off, including virus protection, but the OS and Steam the game doesn’t appear to be trying to claim memory beyond the 2GB I have installed.

But it fails every time.  Sooner or later, the carpet is yanked out from under me… and usually it is sooner.

Steam seems to have a patch for the game every night that fixes one crash or another.  I’ll give Steam that, the patching happens fast.  But each such patch only leads to disappointment as the game ab ends in the black rectangle where the intro movie should be running. (Couldn’t they put up a logo or something if you’ve turned the intro movie off?)

And all of this wouldn’t annoy me so much if the game didn’t appear to have promise, if it didn’t seem to have erased some of the sins of its two predecessors, if it didn’t feel like perhaps, maybe, it was getting back to the feel that made Civ II such a great game while keeping the bits of III and IV that actually improved the series.

I’d really like to play it and see if that was true.

But I can’t it seems, not yet.

I run Steam each evening in hopes that a new patch will make the game behave.

I wander through game sites looking for suggestions on how to tame the game.

But so far I’ve only managed 46 minutes.  Barely enough for a EuroGamer review.

I guess I’ll have to go back to Civ II if I want a Civilization fix while I wait for Civ V’s day to come.

It should play really well in about 5 years.  History repeats itself.