I am an avid gamer that suffers from depression, ADHD, Mitochondrial disease, and anxiety. I am open and honest about it.
Do YOU suffer from similar ailments? How does it affect your gaming?
Are there certain games that have lifted you up from depression?
Are there games that have put you into a depression?
Are there certain games that give you anxiety attacks?
Even without such ailments…
Do you find certain games appeal to you more, or less, depending on seasonal differences? For example, I find myself drawn towards opening up the windows, getting a cold drink, and playing something on my Nintendo during nicer summer days far more than during the winter.
Not in the mood to blog about flight sims, and have a cold. Blech.
So, I’m sitting here perusing an old copy of Computer Gaming World, a magazine first published back in November of 1981, and it is a rather illuminating historical read in regards to retro gaming on the PC.
A full PDF of the issue in question is available right here for your reading pleasure. Follow along with me on this time machine journey…
Right at the start of the issue is a rather interesting piece, written by Chris Crawford. He’s the guy who did a number of notable early wargames – and that is indeed what this article is talking about, What particularly struck me as interesting about this article is that he is describing a gaming genre that hasn’t even been invented yet (and, naturally, he is completely unaware of this). RTS, or Real Time Strategy games.
As time went on, notable in the late 1990s RTS gaming became a thing (with such big hits as Total Annihilation) and was regarded by dedicated wargamers as not “true” wargaming. Thus, despite his assertions: RTS gaming and board-based wargaming HAVE remained pretty much separate (with exceptions, of course).
He then, on about page 6 of the article, goes into an almost smug-sounding bit about programmers and the games they produce.This is the same era where games were designed by a single guy, on his home PC, in the comfort of his own home – so we may excuse the smugness that sometimes seems to creep into his writing.
The one line that grabs my attention is when he says:
“Very few know how to obtain high-quality graphics on personal computers. Finally, very few understand the principles of algorithm creation. I have yet to meet a single programmer who has fully solved the mathematics of a hexgrid for computer use. I know the problem is soluble, for I solved it some years ago, and I know that it really isn’t very hard. Nobody has put their mind to it. I can summarize my characterization of computer wargame designers with one sentence: almost all are amateurs.”
Putting a hex-based map into a wargame, and moving units across it via a mouse is a brain-dead, taken-for-granted thing nowadays, but he is talking about it as an actual issue to be overcome, which is worth a chuckle. Gaming sure has come a LONG way.
After that comes a review of a game that is such a relic that it is difficult to imagine playing such a thing – especially at the clunky speeds described in the article. I mean, look at the screenshot provided. The game involves a simple escort mission by a WWII destroyer, while a German sub attempts to sink as many targets as possible. The PC takes several slow minutes merely to calculate whether torpedoes hit or miss, and the explosions of depth charges.
It’s also amusing to see that sidebar on page 10 that explains what a simulation is – beginning with that old cliche of “the dictionary defines a simulation as…” that would get any article rejected by the publisher nowadays.
Also, do you note how there is a TOTAL lack of screenshots given for the game? In fact, there is only ONE screenshot for any game in the entire magazine (it’s on page 21). Screenshots were difficult to obtain back in this era. They required a hood-like device be mounted onto the monitor, and a special camera and film be used to obtain a frequently blurry and crooked picture at best!
On to page 13 we have a very curious gaming concept. Very curious indeed. You program a robot, which will then duel another robot. You don’t control this robot, it’s scripted actions control it. Better programming routines will make a better robot.
This exact same concept would later be re-visited by Origin Systems, in their OMEGA tank battle game. You scripted the AI for the tank, and when you ran the simulation, you hoped your script was good enough.
I actually like this idea, even to this day. Could teach some excellent fundamentals about AI routines and such, you know?
B-1 Nuclear Bomber, by Avalon Hill, is even more of a relic than that Torpedo game is – this game had ZERO graphics!
This game also had MANY faults (most early Avalon Hill games did, and were pretty crappy even for their era). I remember how you could make a 180 degree turn in your bomber, hit full speed, and the “Mig-27 intercepts you in 237 seconds” would still slowly tick-down regardless of altitude, speed, heading, or anything, Most unrealistic…
The magazine attempts to correct the major deficiency of the game by providing what the programmers didn’t: An actual map of the game’s world.
There is next a selection of curious articles on Air Force mission planning via computers (the fact that such a thing even had room to be discussed in a magazine shows how relatively new computing power was in the world!)
And then a small review of Chris Crawford’s excellent Eastern Front wargame. The man’s smugness in talking about things earlier is justified: This was an excellent wargame for the time, with state-of-the-art graphics and more than capable AI routines. In fact, the AI was remarkably adept. I remember having a devil of a time defeating it! It was sold on either disk, or cartridge, for the excellent Atari home PC.