The Top 100 Games of All Time

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Post by Ice Cream Jonsey » Wed Jul 11, 2007 11:34 pm

#2 - X-COM: UFO DEFENSE

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The lightning-in-a-bottle phenomenon that has never been duplicated. I got into this one late -- it was originally released on 3.5" floppy disks in 1993 and I had not even heard about it until I was working at EB a couple years later. I heard about a lot of things at that EB, due to the fact that one of the mall's security guards worked there as his second job. But hearing about X-COM definitely trumps the other revelations, including the bat that was trapped in the mall.

In X-COM, aliens have begun attacking the Earth. Your job is many: you need to recruit troops, research technology, maintain the economics of bases that you construct all over the world, purchase equipment, train your troops that manage to survive and, lastly, control a turn-based squad of dudes in tactical warfare.

No other game gets as much right as X-COM. Final Fantasy Tactics fucked up the map situation, creating this sensation of floating on ether instead of a wheatfield in the bread basket of America. X-COM's own sequel, which takes place in the oceans, had an annoying difficulty curve and suffered greatly from otherwise being a re-skinning of the original game. The game that the original team worked on after X-COM (which became the third game in the installment) took place in a single city and while everyone said that there was more "area" available... it just didn't feel like it. (And I'm not trashing X-COM: Apocalypse. It's fun, just not as much fun.) Breach II and Jagged Alliance II miss out on the economic decisions as well. X-COM just did a whole lot of things perfectly.

It had destructible terrain. It's one of the tradeoffs everybody made, getting into 3D games. The destruction of walls is tough to do. It's tough to do in text games, for Christ's sake. But you can take a rocket launcher and blow away almost every square inch of an X-COM map.

I could list the game's strengths forever and everyone would go, "HMMMM!" with a thin-lipped smile while I do it. A thin-lipped smile for X-COM DORK. But ultimately, X-COM, and the game that follows at #1, come from a point in my life where computer games were incredibly important, where they were an outlet and a reason for being. They are icons from a time when I could devote an entire evening and early morning to a computer game because I was in that weird area between college and the workforce where you have three days off for such nonsense. New games can't go back in time and mush themselves up with the memories you had.

Rather, at the very top of a list should be the games that resonate best with the nerd who put the list together.

I was in my very early twenties when I discovered X-COM and still learning a lot of the stuff kids learn before they are mature enough to really treat the opposite sex well. I covered a lot of that theme in Necrotic Drift, but in my own life I wasn't a very good boyfriend. I also wasn't very nice, on a day-to-day basis, to my brother at that point in my life, instead being all wrapped up in my own problems and situations. I remember him coming home to tell me that he saw my girlfriend out, tarting all over some guy, because they were all coincidentally at the same club that night. I drove off, all crazy and convinced I was going to save something that had died, but after the dust settled my brother and I spent that winter playing FPS Football (#6 on the list) and I would go through X-COM. I don't have a very vivid memory of things that happened years ago, but the snow building up around the house as my brother and I played computer games on the Pentium, hibernating the winter as you pretty much have to do in Rochester, is one that I'll always remember. I wouldn't trade the memories I have with my brother for anything, and shooting a gray in his disgustingly opaque eyelids got all wrapped up in that.

So yeah, for me, X-COM will always be the second best game of all-time.
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Post by hygraed » Wed Jul 11, 2007 11:54 pm

Good man!

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Post by Ice Cream Jonsey » Wed Jul 11, 2007 11:55 pm

#1 - ZORK I: THE GREAT UNDERGROUND EMPIRE

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When I was about twelve, my parents had their friends come over for coffee. We had a PCjr, and let me give you a real quick snapshot of what gaming was like in the Sherwin household in 1986. Imagine if you will, a guy who accidentally engaged in successful frottage with an Asian hooker and then, after unsuccessfully attempting to get her to go down to Gold Circle and pick up a new pair, he just sort of flattens them out and tries to play an ASCII-based game of "Lunar Lander" before the stink of nigh-sex becomes too great. Gaming on the PCjr was mostly fucking pants in 1986.

Then Mr. Benson started telling my dad about Zork.

I was listening to him describe all the crazy shit I'd later know by heart like Flood Control Dam #3 and killing the troll and so forth. I had to have that game, I f&&5*ing had to possess it. I asked him for a copy. (Sorry, gents.)

"Well, I have to warn you. There are no graphics!" he said. 20 years later I still don't give a crap. I'm sorry we live in a world where the hundred guys who put out S.T.A.L.K.E.R. are going to be directly compared to a game with no graphics, but that's the way it is. They're all computer games, and Zork is the best one ever made.

It's perfection on the original hardware. As Ben said, when that floppy drive starts up because the stuff you did opened up a new area it was sinister. The red light suddenly shining in darkness, lighting up the keyboard because you were playing in the middle of the night, oh fuck yeah. That sensation is never going to be duplicated or emulated.

Zork is a treasure hunt, but with puzzles. It's nonsense, it's completely logical, you know what you have to do but can't explain it, you're putting a gold coffin in a trophy case. It makes as much sense as it has to, but when it has to, it's dead on. It's the standard when it comes to "A-ha!" moments, whether my text game buddies want to believe it or not.

It's also indirectly responsible for the person I am today. Through text games and through making them I have found my inspiration, I have located my muse, I have received genuine compliments the likes of which most people never see in their lives and the kinds of constructive criticism that is utterly impossible to get in any sort of writing workshop setting. I have made friends that I will treasure for my entire life and won awards that I would have never thought possible due to getting so hooked on Zork. I think it's safe to say that I went a long way towards finding my place on this world because I was inspired by Zork to write (and in turn, live life to the point where I would have plenty of experiences and material to draw upon as an author). Oh, I was also influenced as a writer by how great it felt to smash D&D creatures in the face with sharp objects, but this is a whole other thing. I don't know who I'd be today if I didn't find this game, but there would probably be some kind of emptiness inside. Or maybe I would have taken up spoon bending, who can tell, who can tell.

I know the text in Zork was the work of several different people, but that "voice" Zork was written with is perfect for the time and era. Text games, hell, most games are still snarky today.

From a technical standpoint, I have to put Zork ahead of X-COM because it took longer for Zork's sequels to become embarrassing. But come on, this website is called "The Great On-Line Empire" in tribute. There was no way the best game of all time was going to be anything but my man Zork.
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Post by hygraed » Thu Jul 12, 2007 12:03 am

Ice Cream Jonsey wrote:It's perfection on the original hardware. As Ben said, when that floppy drive starts up because the stuff you did opened up a new area it was sinister. The red light suddenly shining in darkness, lighting up the keyboard because you were playing in the middle of the night, oh fuck yeah. That sensation is never going to be duplicated or emulated.
This sounds incredible. I wish I could have first experienced Zork in a way other than playing it on a Pentium II with enough RAM to keep the entire game in memory. I'm mentally equating the whirr of the floppy drive to the deep, distant rumble and scrape of shifting stone as the Adventurer must have heard it.

Dear God, I love text games so goddamn much. Great list, Robb.

edit: Also, how is that book idea panning out? Are you still going to try to do that? If so, sign me up for a copy. I don't care how much it costs.

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Post by Ice Cream Jonsey » Thu Jul 12, 2007 12:14 am

hygraed wrote:This sounds incredible. I wish I could have first experienced Zork in a way other than playing it on a Pentium II with enough RAM to keep the entire game in memory. I'm mentally equating the whirr of the floppy drive to the deep, distant rumble and scrape of shifting stone as the Adventurer must have heard it. Dear God, I love text games so goddamn much. Great list, Robb.
Hey, thanks hygraed. I appreciate that. I can't believe it took two years to get through all that.

I still keep a 5.25" floppy drive around, as one of these days I am going to hook it back up for the purpose of Infocom games. The issue is usually that I don't have a power supply on my computer with either enough juice or enough connectors to power the thing. (And I imagine most of my 5.25" disks are dead as well, but at least in not knowing they exist as working in my mind.)

edit: Also, how is that book idea panning out? Are you still going to try to do that? If so, sign me up for a copy. I don't care how much it costs.
Yeah, I'm going to include the various game-based articles, essays, posts and stories I have written since I've begun running this BBS, as well as some new stuff. I'll just self-publish it at lulu.com for cost. It's a little ways off, but that's OK, as it gives me a chance to update the list correctly. A spoiler from earlier in the thread (like, a year and a half ago) is that the game I had forgotten about was "Elite." The book will give me a chance to recover from that error. Actually, I'd change:

- Add Elite
- Remove the embarrassing Rockaroids Remix / Asteroids debate, because having played many hours of Asteroids since I made the list... man, I like RR (the Vectrex game) but Asteroids is perfect.
- Either involve Dwarf Fortress in the list or detail exactly why it just misses. Easily the most fascinating game released in the last several years, and mounds of text need to be written on it.

But yeah, thanks again! It is very appreciated. I am going to wait a bit before tackling the 100 worst.
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Post by Ice Cream Jonsey » Thu Jul 12, 2007 12:16 am

Here is the list in JPG form, if you want it all at once.

Image
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Post by hygraed » Thu Jul 12, 2007 1:43 am

http://hygraed.googlepages.com/top100games.html

edit: SHIT you put up a new jpg FUCK

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Post by Jack Straw » Thu Jul 12, 2007 3:06 am

..i....
can't believe it's over....

edit: waitaminute, hygrade..... you actually took the time to link each game's name to the point in this thread where robB posted it?!? I mean, that's above and beyond the call of duty...excelsior,etc.. .but exactly how much free time do you have?
Are you sure you're gay, or just need something to do? there's better things to spend time on than cock, and girls have buttholes too.

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Post by hygraed » Thu Jul 12, 2007 3:14 am

It was 3 AM when I did that. I wasn't missing out on anything by taking the time to do that image map.

And there are not better things to spend time on than cock. Especially not doing another goddamn image map for the new jpg Robb posted. I'm just going to tell myself that the two-column list works better for a web format.

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Post by Ice Cream Jonsey » Thu Jul 12, 2007 7:56 am

hygraed wrote:It was 3 AM when I did that. I wasn't missing out on anything by taking the time to do that image map.

And there are not better things to spend time on than cock. Especially not doing another goddamn image map for the new jpg Robb posted. I'm just going to tell myself that the two-column list works better for a web format.
That is the greatest thing anyone has ever done - wow! Thanks a million, man. The two column thing works great for everything but phpBB, which does not like images larger than thirty pixels, heh heh.
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Post by bruce » Thu Jul 12, 2007 8:03 am

Ice Cream Jonsey wrote:I am having trouble finishing.
I hear meth does that to you.

Bruce

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Post by Ice Cream Jonsey » Thu Jul 12, 2007 10:04 am

bruce wrote:
Ice Cream Jonsey wrote:I am having trouble finishing.
I hear meth does that to you.
I should have gone that route.

PROS: I would have had the list finished in 17 minutes, instead of two years and one month.

CONS: My face would have more craters than the third stage of "Moon Patrol."
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Post by Ice Cream Jonsey » Thu Jul 12, 2007 12:00 pm

The review of Tempest is so lousy that I will not wait until the book is ready to re-do it. I will notify the readers of this thread when Tempest has been tackled correctly.

In my defense, I did not own the game before writing that review. There is no other defense. I appreciate you guys sticking with me through that nonsense.
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Post by pinback » Thu Jul 12, 2007 12:04 pm

When I saw "Warcraft II" on Hygraed's list, I though "huh, I don't remember what ICJ had to say about WC2... lemme just click on this badboy and re-read it!"

Why, you shoulda seen the look on my face! LOL!



(It looked a little like this:

Image
)
Above all else... We shall go on... And continue!

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Post by AArdvark » Thu Jul 12, 2007 5:07 pm

Hmmph. Yes, the floppy drive spinning up when you did something interesting. Waiting to see if you had solved the puzzle or had gotten yourself killed ..again. I remember that four second anticipation well. Something that was not intended by the programmers but was intristic to the hardware of the day. Something had been lost when hard drives became household objects.


THE
UH-OH
WAIT FOR IT
WAIT FOR IT!!!
WAIT!!!!!
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Post by Ice Cream Jonsey » Thu Jul 12, 2007 6:58 pm

Yeah, I am not saying I want to go back or anything. And I bet it was even better on the C64 1541 drive, where seeking the space on the disk to see if you got into the basement could take more time than it actually takes a person to move a giant rug and enter a basement in their own home. The 1541 drive allowed you to perform a sort of "Contest of Champions" with the game. A race against time! Only the 1541 always lost.

Fun fact: Physicists performed the double slit experiment with a Commodore 64 1541 drive as the observer. When they did so, they learned an amazing thing: it observing did NOT change the experiment! The photons still acted as a wave. It is the only device in the known quantum universe to be so shitty that it doesn't "count" as an observer.
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co

Post by co » Thu Jul 12, 2007 7:33 pm

It was on the c64 that I played Zork, thanks for reminding me about that.

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Post by Jack Straw » Thu Jul 12, 2007 7:41 pm

holy shit, kung fu took like 45 minutes to load a level on C64, and friday the 13th would seem to lock up as jason was chasing you but it was really loading ... the other side of the screen. C64 1541 i dont really miss you.

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Post by pinback » Thu Jul 12, 2007 11:10 pm

Zork is the "Citizen Kane" of games. Yes, revolutionary. Yes, first of its kind. Yes, groundbreaking.

No, not worthy of remaining at the top of the list, even though it will always be there.
Above all else... We shall go on... And continue!

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Post by Lysanger » Tue Jul 31, 2007 1:17 pm

Oddly enough, the first Zork game I played was Zork III. I remember one time my hard drive was busted (the files were okay but it wasn't booting for somegoddamn reason) so I booted from a floppy and would play... i think it was that one and Borderzone. So I do get a little bit of what you are talking about. Anyways, for those interested, there's a high-resolution pack to get Duke3d running natively in WinXP with textures instead of sprites for all the images and there's neat little additions like sound effects for shells clattering on teh ground for the ripper, pistol and shotgun, shrapnel for pipebom/drone explosions, stuff like that. I can't remember the link off the top of my head but just google Duke3d high-resolution pack" and you'll find it. It's a pretty hefty download, though I suppose anyone who plays Half-Life on a regular basis won't bat an eye.

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