Tobold's Blog
Monday, May 18, 2009
Not missing the boat

As you might have guessed from the titles, this post is related to the previous one. What I said there about the risks of missing the boat if you start playing a massively multiplayer game a year or more later completely reverses if we talk about single-player games. I'm currently catching up on single-player games I missed while being totally immersed in virtual worlds, and I notice some definitive advantages.

One, which is arguable shared with MMOs, is that games often are released in a bugged state, and patched in the year after release. Thus if I now play a game that was released over a year ago, I can usually already find one or several patches for it, and avoid some of the trouble the people who played it on release day experienced. Besides official patches, in games with a map editor or similar means of adding user-created content, it is easier to find lots of such content for older games than for games that are freshly released. That also is true for walkthroughs and cheats, for people who need those.

Another big advantage of starting a single-player game which was released a year or more ago is that prices from older computer games fall rapidly. That was always true, but when you bought all your games at the local computer store it wasn't always easy to find last years bargain. The bargain bin usually had already been picked clear of all decent games by other people, and some games simply couldn't be found a year later. The internet changed that.

While I did complain about Steam charging me 50 Euro for a 50 Dollar game, I have to admit that Steam isn't a bad source for older games. This weekend I bought the original Company of Heroes for 9.99. Which is a great bargain, if you consider that for the same money you could have had either Company of Heroes or Plants vs. Zombies. The Steam Weekend Deals are also often interesting, although I decided against buying Call of Duty 5 at half price, I still haven't started CoD4 yet, which supposedly is better anyway. But Steam isn't always the cheapest source for older games. Amazon for example has its "marketplace", where other sellers sell the things Amazon doesn't have in stock any more. I just ordered Brothers in Arms Hell's Highway for just £5.99 there.

A last advantage of buying games later is hardware requirements. The game that two year ago only ran on high-end computers now runs perfectly well on a medium-range machine. So all in all missing a single-player game and playing it a year or two later isn't such a bad thing. Of course you can't stretch that out forever. Playing 10 year old games now is going to hurt your eyes. :)
For older games I must recommend Good Old Games ( ). And they actually allow us european guys to pay in $ too. ;)
Hey i still play Diablo and Starcraft as well as Crusader: No Remorse, DOS games ftw =]
I loved Company of Heroes. The atmosphere and attention to detail are absolutely superb and I found the game really immersive. Don't expect "high strategy" though. The game play is fairly straightforward even though some of the later levels are quite challenging.

Don't make the same mistake I did. I went through several levels before I realised you can make new buildings. In fact you have to to get different types of unit. I must have missed that part of the tutorial but it was a quite a challenge trying to fight tanks with only basic soldiers until I figured out my mistake.
Best advice for stretching your money on Steam is to never buy a game there unless it's a "Weekend Deal" or several months old and discounted under half price. Seems publishers don't want to tick off retailers thus demand full retail, while you can often pick up the same game from for 20-30% less than steam.

My only issue with buying older games is I primarily play Multiplayer only, and many old games short of big hits like Starcraft/etc, have had their communities and playerbase die off to very small numbers, thus making it difficult to get good matches going.
I've also started digging through single player games. And I do love the weekend deals. Bought the second Sam & Max package this week. Lots of fun so far.

And I also advice to take a look at Some real gems to find and already spent quite a bit of money there. At $5.99 a game, you really can't go wrong.

As for 10 year old games hurting your eyes? No! I just pick the adventures or rpg games. The graphics certainly don't look bad on a lot of 2D games. Especially for games with a comic book look such as broken sword or the longest journey. Just check out Planescape Torment (1999) with the widescreen patch. It looks better then 90% of todays games. Just take a look.

Running old games is indeed better. My pc can run the new games but old games just load so much faster! And yep, you can often find them cheaper.
> Don't expect "high strategy" though

I disagree. I've played a lot of modern RTS (AoM, AoE, Warcraft III, RoN:RoL, WH40K:DoW ...), but I think CoH is strategically superior. A lot of RTS are just RPS (rock-paper-scissors) where you build an army and rush the enemy base. CoH is different. It has still a bit of RPS, but gameplay is innovative. Managing a tank, a MG, a sniper, an infantry squad, a mortar or a cannon is radically different; you can't just spam units and send them to fight the enemy, you need to hold territory in orden to get ammo (needed for weapon upgrades or special abilities), fuel (needed for tanks), popcap or victory points. And you need to micro-manage units so they can get cover, kite an enemy (circle-strafing a StuG with a M10 or a Sherman is funny) or avoid an MG, not just click abilities and focus fire.

The great graphics, the complex micro-management of small groups of units or the excellent realism make CoH a great and deep RTS (the best RTS in several years IMHO)
@31p4dr1n0 I didn't mean for my post to be a criticism of CoH, I really love the game. I was trying to point out that CoH is not an old school hex tiled turn based game with complicated resource management and where you spend a week working out each move. I seem to remember Tobold indicating a preference for such games and didn't want him to be disappointed at not finding it in CoH.
CoH is indeed a great RTS, and is far less 'zerg-like' than others in the genre. Never played the expansion, but the original campaign was entertaining enough, and online it was fun.

Another really great single player game that has received a great update since release is The Witcher. Already an amazing game, the enhanced edition adds a ton to that game. Highly recommended.
Thirding Good Old Games. Steam weekend sales are great, too; they are the only reason I have World of Goo, AudioSurf and Defense Grid. (All great games, but I'm very price sensitive.)

Late adoption of games is indeed better on the wallet and stability. (If you're into FAQs, that also gives the early adopters time to chart things out for you.)

I've just picked up MechCommander 2 again after a 5 year hiatus, and I've been enjoying it a lot more than any MMOs I've played recently.

I've also had good experiences with, trading my older games with other people. I've even been able to pick up some great GBA/DS games that I missed retail (Tactics Ogre, notably), while cleaning out my own backlog of older games I don't play any more. Win-win, and less hassle than eBay.

I know, publishers don't like the secondary market, but if they would provide a comparable service (like GOG), they wouldn't have much reason to complain. Business 101 stuff, guys.

Oh, and speaking of MMOs, I've long believed that MMO design should encourage sustainable design concepts, letting vets play profitably with noobs, and keeping the whole game world relevant, rather than a narrow "level-appropriate" band.
As for 10 year old games hurting your eyes? No!I definitely have to agree with this viewpoint as well. Newer games do tend to look slightly better, but older, sprite based games do tend to look pretty neat as well (provided the art is handled right.)

Alpha Centauri, especially, is a game I can think of whose graphics aren't particularly "advanced", but still does a good job a creatiing a unique and cool looking environment, and others likely do as well (that I've forgotten at the moment.)

I do often wonder why so many computer games seem to significantly increase graphical requirements from year to year, when similar effects might be achievable by more skilled artistry. The lower system requirements seem like they would easily increase the available audience for the game.
hey Tobold... Looks like they fixed embedded comments again, if you want to switch your layout back to that. Works on mine now anyway.
I think all online-game players have that special single player game they will revert to when the online market becomes to drab and dull. There is nothing like being able to make an impact in a game without "John Doe Cookie Cutter Same Class" rolling through and doing the same thing you just did. The impact is just not there in many MMO'S. Single player experiences offer a far better immersion level than an MMO will ever be able to bring with its vast amounts of content and huge worlds.

Good single player experience that come to mind:

TES Oblivion

In terms of story and player impact.
Panzer General for Windows looks better than ever. It is mainly the 3D-based games that age without any grace... :)
BTW: Company of Heroes only shines in Multiplayer.

The AI did not yet manage to destroy a single tank even in higher single player difficulties throughout the whole campaign.

I must hate the RTS genre, I am one of the few persons who were not enticed by CoH. :(
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