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  • unmanneddrone 5:46 am on July 5, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: Dark Colony, , ,   

    Get Your Mouse To Mars – A Dark Colony Retrospective 

    From the RTS Golden Age, a forgotten title left an unsung legacy.

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    • bowlisimo 8:17 pm on July 5, 2012 Permalink

      Interesting, never heard of it. Looking at the screenshot up there, it looks like it clearly falls on the C&C RTS tech path of using a giant sidebar to build units, which was pretty handy back in the day.

      Was it Starcraft that overshadowed this game? Or was it Total Annihilation? Or was it that RTS games were a dime a dozen in the mid-late 90’s, and this one just didn’t differentiate itself enough from the pack to be remembered? The first Age of Empires came out the same year, was very different and is still remembered today despite Starcraft’s long, dark umbra.

      Either way, I’m definitely glad that mirrored faction idea is a thing of the past. Also, I wonder if that day/night cycle was Blizzard’s inspiration for a similar cycle in Warcraft 3.

    • unmanneddrone 10:36 pm on July 5, 2012 Permalink

      An old school RTS appreciation thread sprang up on NeoGAF after someone was trying to remember Warzone 2100…and Dark Colony was mentioned by a fair few folks (undoubtedly genre heavies and obsessed with curios).

      I think it might have been a culmination of all the things you mentioned, the glut especially, but Dark Colony certainly had a lot going for it – symmetry notwithstanding.

      In regards to Age of Empires, thematically it cast its own shadow and enjoyed a position outside of the sphere of its pulpy fantasy/sci-fi contemporaries. Not to mention it had the Microsoft backing…in DC’s case, SSI probably didn’t have the marketing swathe – being a publisher primarily of neckbeard entertainment. Sort of like if Matrix Games wanted to tussle with the big boys.

      The late 90s/early 2000s were my favourite times for the genre. So many interesting and ultimately forgotten titles to sift through. Force 21, The Gladiators, Submarine Titans, Conquest: Frontier Wars, those strange Homeworld B-tiers in Starmaggedon and Offworld Resource Base etc. etc.

      I’ll rustle up another retrospective on a far newer title that I think you’d enjoy, or at least be intrigued to read about.

    • bowlisimo 4:33 am on July 6, 2012 Permalink

      You’re clearly more versed in the genre than I am. Haven’t heard of most of those games. As a teenager without a lot of dough, I pretty much stuck to Blizzard, Westwood, and Ensemble, with a few deviations here and there.

      Yeah, the Age of Empires formula was pretty strong on its own for a while, begat several series like Empire Earth, Rise of Nations, and then went out with a whimper. Its only surviving heir is the facebook game, I guess? Kind of a shame, but Total War satisfies that niche for me now. Tried playing my .01 cent copy of Age 3 last month… yuck.

      On that note, I kind of want to see a graph that shows the entire history, starting from Dune (or whatever), everything that arose from it, and all of the subsequent evolutions that spawned from them up to present day (if they made it). I wonder how that would look. Probably way more complicated than I’m imagining.

    • unmanneddrone 5:31 am on July 6, 2012 Permalink

      Most of my investigations came after the fact, both via bargain-binning and second-hand stores. Dark Colony was a second-hand pick-up of curiosity. Turned out to be a fond favourite.

      I hear Age of Empires 3 is a great multiplayer game, if anything. I didn’t have the massive love affair with the second and, arguably, greatest in Age of Kings, but it certainly has a wide following all these years later. Ever play Galactic Battlegrounds, the Star Wars reskinning? Not bad.

      Would love to see that graph as well, with all the moments of mechanical inception. As far as I know, Eugen Systems’ first ‘big’ title (that’s The Gladiators) was possibly the point of divergence for the Dawn of War squad-based RTT idea. You’ve got other titles prior that feed into the idea, but it’s the closest common ancestor I can find.

  • Pete Davison 3:11 pm on June 20, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: 4X, Amplitude, , turn-based strategy   

    Squaddies by the Fireside: Endless Space 

    Pete and Alex C settle down for a lengthy chat about Amplitude’s upcoming 4X title.

    (Caution! Extremely lengthy, multi-page post ahead.)

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    • bowlisimo 7:05 pm on June 20, 2012 Permalink

      That was a fun format, although it took me like 4 paragraphs to realize it was imaginary (…or was it?)
      You guys should have told me, I’ve got a baller space-conference room at Praxus HQ you could have used. It’s pure white and lined with Teladi holo-walls. The board of directors likes to have ancient Earth leaders serve them pangalactic gargleblasters. Weird, right? I’ve been meaning to talk to them about that. The rehab for our monthly meetings is starting to cut into our bottom line.

      Intrigued by Endless Space, for sure, sounds right up my alley, “but can my aged computer run it?” is the question. Also kind of bummed to hear it lacks a touch of personality and that diplomacy isn’t all there, although I think a lot of space games struggle with those aspects. Actually I feel like all 4X games (at least the ones I have played) struggle with diplomacy the most, even the mighty Civ. It’s all you can do to keep every A.I. from acting completely irrational and dickish.

      As for personality, it’s hard to love an empire of faceless planets. A council is a good start. I really think the planetary council in Alpha Centauri was a nice step in the personality direction, and it gave you reasons to contact faction leaders for more than just trading. There was a nice game of politics there that focused around votes and who you could persuade/buy off to vote your way on issues that affected everyone. I don’t see why there couldn’t be an inter-empire version of this, or maybe that’s too much to deal with. Civ 4/5 have the U.N. council, but it’s little more than a floating GUI with text.

      And did Alex really drop a Star Wars Rebellion reference? Here I thought I was the only one who played that wonderful, but flawed, wrist-crippling strategy game. It definitely had personality, you recruited Star Wars characters for god sakes, but it also sounds like Endless Space has a similar combat system where you watch ships auto-battle with very loose interaction from the player. It worked back then, despite looking like ass, so I can image it still works for Endless Space. I’m down with the spectacle and cinematics. I don’t care about micromanaging battles as much.

      OH, and yes to 4X narrative, however thin.

      Anyway, I’ll probably pick this up the first time it’s on sale.

    • Pete Davison 9:49 pm on June 20, 2012 Permalink

      Good stuff. I’m pretty sure you’ll dig it. As for the personality and diplomacy issues, it’s worth reiterating that the game isn’t “out” yet — the version that’s currently up on Steam is an unfinished beta and the devs freely admit that not everything is implemented yet, with diplomacy being a particularly prominent item on their “To Do” list. So it’s possible there will be some strides forward in that department before it releases for realsies.

    • unmanneddrone 2:41 am on June 21, 2012 Permalink

      I think it’s definitely one of those genres where your own personal drive and direction can conceivably make up for any narrative absence or limited sense of character. That said, I do find ES to be on the more fulfilling end of the spectrum.

      And just as an aside to this Squaddies by the Fireside chat…it’s nice to be able to engage in some of that high-level discussion that is usually reserved for podcasts, as the logistics, timezone and familial duties will always prevent anything further…a man weeps.

      Anyway, Bowley, I echo Pete in saying this is very much your bag.

  • Pete Davison 11:22 am on June 9, 2012 Permalink |
    Tags: dumb fun, , Grand Theft Auto, Jason Rubin, opinion, , , THQ   

    Dumb Fun Has a Place 

    THQ’s new president believes Saints Row: The Third developers Volition can “make something that isn’t embarrassing”. Is Saints Row something to be embarrassed about, and is there a place for games like this?

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    • feenwager 11:40 am on June 9, 2012 Permalink

      I chalk it up to the industry’s never-ending case of movie envy. Let’s face it, Skyrim & Red Dead are no Schindler’s List. In the race to be taken seriously, everyone wants to ‘elevate’ the whole hobby. I say humbug. They’re called video GAMES for a reason, they’re supposed to be fun.

    • unmanneddrone 11:49 am on June 9, 2012 Permalink

      @feenwager Indeed. Agreed. I’m all for powerful experiences, but I had a lot of fun with Saints Row: The Third and not really any of that enjoyment stemmed from what Rubin and Crecente are pointing the finger at. It was wry, it had great dialogue and voice acting and knew exactly what it was.

      We’re getting our powerful and unique experiences at the same time, and seeing things like The Last of Us, Metro: Last Light etc. show that there’s a great balance being struck via taking cinematic queues and fusing them with traditional game mechanics…

      …but come on. This po-faced want to fast-track videogames’ cultural legitimacy has its place, and by all means, despite falling out of love for the most part with narrative-heavy games and ones with social commentary, I encourage developers to follow in the footsteps of industry leaders like Irrational et al., but not at the expense of creativity.

      And given THQ’s current situation, Rubin should be encouraging Volition to run in any direction and keep working their magic.

    • Pete Davison 2:52 pm on June 9, 2012 Permalink

      Agreed. I’m all for video games to have increased “legitimacy” but that doesn’t mean they should lose their lighter side — as you say, Feen, they’re called GAMES for a reason. There are far more embarrassing games than Saints Row, anyhow.

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