21/01/2012

[Retro] Enforced Retro Gaming

Over the last week or so since my motherboard died, I've had very few choices for my gaming fixes. It's been a case of 360, fire up an older console or, more depressingly, find something that'll work on this laptop. It has Windows XP(which was great, but after a long spell with Vista I hate just how inflexible it is), a dual core T2080 @ 1.73GHz, 2GB of RAM and a built-in graphics chipset. This was probably the height of technology back in the last 5 or so years, but now it struggles to run Minecraft, never mind anything as recent as Portal or perhaps even Half Life 2.

So I've taken the radical step of looking into more retro games. And would you believe, it's actually quite bloody hard to find any of the old classics, which doesn't bode well for the future - but I'll elaborate on that later.
To hand, I had Command and Conquer Red Alert and that was about it. I know I've got The Ultimate Doom somewhere but frankly it's way too much effort to dig out amidst the mess that is my bedroom.
Above: Red Alert. Red Army smash puny Allies. Brute strength beats wimpy e-warfare.

Red Alert has been good fun to get back in to. Retarded AI or cheating AI, rarely anything inbetween. An army of Mammoth Tanks still remains the most satisfying way of destroying all before you in one wave of destruction. There is nothing the Allies have that even comes close to the win that is the Mammoth Tank.
For kicking back, and enjoying a bit of either brainless killing or hair-pulling mind games, Red Alert's been huge fun. The biggest problem however is compatibility modes - it took about half an hour and a couple of patches(plus lots of swearing) - to get the game to boot properly. I mean, they say a game is compatible with XP. They fail to mention that it takes a dozen clicks to make that happen. It really should be a case of pop in, install, play. None of this extra bullshit that makes you wish you hadn't bothered in the first place.
Oh and once you think you've got the game installed, you have to make sure the RA95.exe file - the one you double click to play - is also running in compatibility mode. It's ridiculous.

My lil brother found a copy of the original Sid Meier's CivNet - I'm led to believe it's the original Civilization with online multiplayer added to it. Joy of joys this was much easier to install - I got an .exe file from lil bro's flash drive, and double clicked.
That's it. Nowhere near as much drama as with Red Alert.
The main drama here was trying to get a wireless LAN party on the go. This took about 2 days of constant Google-fu and tinkering with shit we didn't know what we were tinkering with to eventually call it quits and just play single-player games. A shame as I always wanted to kick his ass on that game as a kid, and I'm not paying out for switches or other gizmos just so I can join the elite of PC faggotry that are the Lan Party Whores. Fuck that shit.
So we spent the next few days playing the crap out of it and exchanging war stories. His favourite was when he started as the English, and the game forced him to start on a 5 square big island. Five whole squares. He shunned mapmaking and other nautical research so that when the Mongols came knocking with their armies of Chariots and Legions, the lil bro mopped up with his Cannons and Knights. Then he stole mapmaking and navigation, churned out sails and cleaned up the rest of the map.
Above: not my game save, despite it being Babylonians and Russians. He has nukes in this image, whereas in my game he couldn't tell left from right. But hey, don't argue with him - his words are BACKED WITH NUCLEAR WEAPONS.

My favourite story would be as the Babylonians, it came down to me trying to play as peacefully as possible but the Russians kept on insisting I was an enemy and trying to come up with reasons to kick shit out of me. Stalin kept on demanding that if I didn't give him Literacy, he'd knock the crap out of my armies. I was rolling around in Tanks at this point so didn't feel like listening to him. Instead I made trades with the Aztecs, the only other nation in play. I laughed quite a lot when Stalin's forces were wiped out by the Aztec horde that I'd helped to build up, and panicked when the loyal AI then turned its gaze upon me. I lost about 6 cities in 2 turns as I just hadn't prepared for an ally turning on me. All cities churned out tanks, bombers and carriers and I won. Just about, before the game's built-in time limit stopped me from progressing beyond 2080AD. I think it's 2080 anyways, off the top of my head...

To be honest, there aren't that many older games floating around out there. Console gaming is easy(or at least it is from my perspective having grown up with Mega Drives and Playstations as my main gaming source) for the second hand market; various shops and eBay. Piece of cake.
PC gaming however is limited, and I think I know why - the constantly evolving spec of games and consoles is leaping way too quickly to keep up with. They're now way ahead of the equivalent games - PS3, I hear, has the equivalent of a NVIDIA 6-series inside of it. That's quite dated by today's standards. And games are constantly coming out that push these boundaries ever more forward.

Before I continue I must stress, I am all for progress in the gaming industry. If it were not for developers striving to create better games for us then we'd still be stuck with Mickey Mouse: Castle of Illusion or maybe an obscure title like No Second Place with its crude polygons would be the height of graphical win. Progress is good.
Above: if it wasn't for progress, we'd still be stuck with this bag of shit.
The part I take concern with is the availability of older titles. Steam has been a revolution in this regard as quite a few old titles are there for purchase, but even then electronic distribution has limits. If nobody buys a game or it's considered so old a wristwatch could run it, then why bother to stock it in your store? And speaking of stores, good luck finding anything in your local Gamestation made before 2005, or isn't something originally destined for the bargain bin. And of course, if Steam ever goes offline then it's adios to your catalogue of games...
Retro gaming for the PC is incredibly hard. But there's one big reason for this above all others, I suspect.

Nobody takes into account that maybe, just maybe, nobody runs older equipment any more. I know people that used dial-up until last year. I'm struggling to find anything to play on this laptop. The future of gaming is advancing so quickly that it's impossible to play anything modern on anything that isn't a state of the art machine, and the games that are old are getting impossibly hard to find as nobody has machines that they'll run on owing to compatibility issues so there's no need to stock them.

Retro gaming on a PC. Much harder than it seems on the surface.

2 comments:

  1. Right... hope this comment works...

    If you still wanna try beating your bro at that game, while my comp is fucked net-wise I still have a switch I'm not currently using if you want to borrow it!

    As for classic gaming have you checked Good Old Games? Online distribution like Steam, but originally intended for Old classic games (though they do sell all sorts now iirc). I'm certainly going to be getting an account when I have net back to my comp, one of my favourite Point and Click adventures is one there for free when you sign up! (at least it was last time I checked the site... Beneath a Steel Sky excellent game!)

    oh their web address is gog.com btw :P

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