1994 Week: The Year Ahead

Nexus from Star Trek: Generations

Good morning, users.

You may have heard in last week's podcast that we at GWJ have discovered a way to tunnel across time and dimension to peak into a prior GWJ — a GWJ BBS, running in 1994. The world mourns the loss of Kurt Cobain, while praising the rise of Jim Carrey via three movies in one year.

It is a dark time.

Join us now, as we peek across existence into a time that is in many ways simpler, lower resolution, and a moment when games were rapidly evolving in a lot of good (and awful) ways.

Let us pray that we can avoid posting FMV cutscenes that would destroy your puny modems.

Sean "Elysium" Sands" wrote:

With just a few days left on the calendar for the year of our Lord, nineteen hundred and ninety four, our BBS will be filled this week with our favorite writers talking a bit about their favorite games of the year. Also, most of you should have the new CD-ROM with the latest show audio file by Wednesday, assuming the Post Office holds up their end of the bargain. This week's episode will have our recap of the entire year of 1994, so jam that thing into your Discman, and let the dulcet tones of myself, Shawn, Julian and Allen fill your ears.

Instead of the normal Week Ahead here -- and your normal weekly opportunity to yell at me for owning a Genesis instead of a SNES -- let’s call this week’s post The Year Ahead. We’re going to spend the week revisiting 1994 on the board as it comes to its quiet end, but before we do, let’s look ahead to a few of the things that might distract us in early 1995 from Orenthal James’ upcoming murder trial.

Top of my list has got to be the impending Dark Forces. With id’s phenomenal Doom 2 in the rearview mirrors and a year filled with the sound of twin-ion engines as I executed my dark deeds in service to the empire as a Tie Fighter pilot, I’m ready to get back in the boots of the good guys and shoot me some Stormtroopers. Since it looks unlikely that George Lucas will ever get back on the horse and make more than the three classic films, the work of LucasArts and Timothy Zahn are all we’re going to get for continuing the saga, but if Dark Forces lives up to the recent Tie Fighter, X-Wing and Rebel Assault, then who needs film?

But the real stars of the spring and early summer are likely to be two new consoles. As the 3D0 and Jaguar still struggle to find their footing, both Sega and the new upstart Sony have launched their new systems in the ever-critical proving ground of Japan. Sony is looking to answer the tempest Sega has spun up with its colossal hit, Virtual Fighter, by releasing its own Battle Arena Toshinden to the eager Japanese audience next week. In the meantime we get to sit here and be jealous. We’ll have to wait a few months to get our hands on them here state-side, and by that time we should have a good understanding of whether the console wars have room for an underdog like Sony.

And, of course, everything will change when Nintendo stirs from its SNES slumber and enters the fray as well, but that may be a year or more away.

One other item to keep an eye out for over the next couple of months is the latest from Square, makers of this year’s Final Fantasy III (which is apparently actually FFVI in Japan?). The game is called Chrono Trigger, and as to be expected, I know nothing about it. I’m mentioning it so you guys won’t yell at me. Please don’t yell at me. How can I be expected to keep up with all the stuff these guys are shoveling out onto that SNES thing you keep going on about?

In the meantime, enjoy our trip down memory lane for this not-half-bad year of 1994 this week.

Comments

Pages

I'm so excited. I'm so ... scared.

So I got to play Dark Forces and here are my thoughts:

Well, I was looking forward to this game, from what I'd heard about it. I've been an avid Doom fan for as long as its been out, and was hoping for another good first-person shooter.

Unfortunately, it didn't quite reach the level of Doom. I admit to playing it a lot, addictively even, but it just didn't have that level of enjoyment that I'd associated with the Doom games. I didn't particularly like the auto-aiming feature that, like in most first-person shooters games, will tweak your shots slightly from the point your barrel is actually aiming at. In Doom and Heretic, this always works for you. In Dark Forces, you honestly never know where your shot is going to go. I've hit Storm Troopers standing a half a mile away with a three consecutive shots, but missed almost everything I blasted at a Trooper standing not two feet in front of me. The shooting is erratic, although I will admit that it does compensate for bad aim more than Doom. The problem is, you don't look directly down the barrel of any of your weapons, so it's hard to tell exactly where it's pointing.

One nice thing I can say about the game is the sounds. If you've got a stereo set up on your sound card, noises coming from the left of your position actually come out through the left speaker. I thought this was a very nice effect and quite enjoyable. Made it easy to figure out where that nasty blaster-fire was coming from.

No, I didn't object as much as some to the lack of a Save Game feature. While I do believe that it detracts from the quality of the game, you won't find me shouting about it over the new groups. In my opinion, it merely adds an extra level of frustration to an already flawed game design. Making the game harder does not make up for a lower number of levels to play, guys.

But, I couldn't help asking myself: What is the Rebellion so worried about if one guy can do some much freaking damage?? In one mission, you single-handedly take out every trooper on Corsucant, the Imperial homeworld. Not only that, but on Jabba's barge, you kill Kell Dragons with your bare hands. Isn't this a bit much? Granted, Doom could be slightly silly, but that was part of its charm. The Star Wars universe is supposed to be a little more realistic. Yeah, the heroes always won in the movies, but it was never like this. Even they had to surrender at times.

It's an interesting game, and worth some enjoyment, but I don't think it will go down in history as one of the best first-person shooters around.

A SNES slumber? Did everyone already forget about Donkey Kong Country?

Stuff's better on my PC with OS/2 anyway (got the Red box, it's cheaper). DOS games don't crash on it, and I can even run Telemate and HSLink in the background.

Personally, I'm looking forward to playing Descent. Full 6 degrees of freedom! And have you seen the graphics? Wow. I just hope my old computer can hold up to it!

And it's fine that you own a Genesis, Sean... I'm sure you enjoyed Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles (that lock-on stuff was neat. I hope it's used more often now). I've played them so many times by now, I have the levels memorized! I'm sure you'll be doing the midnight release for Sony's PS1. It looks so cool! I'll have to ask my parents to get one for me. Maybe for Christmas.

Everyone knows nothing existed before Half-Life.

Also out on PC that year - System Shock, Master of Orion, Elder Scrolls I: Arena, and X-COM.

I'm interested to hear about the new TIE Fighter game which I haven't played yet. X-Wing was so good, and I'm sure this follow up will be ok technically, but I can't ever see it being better than the original. I don't think I'll enjoy playing as the "bad guys." And what will the story be about? Will it be from the point of view of a lowly TIE Fighter pilot?

I don't know... I just have a feeling that it just won't be that good.

There's a new SimCity game coming out. Maybe I'll be able to play it in VGA, now that I'm not using my dad's monochrome monitor to play SimCity. I've been playing a lot of SimAnt too.

There's a demo version of this new alien fighting game called X-Com out there, but I won't be able to track down a copy for a while. The library has a copy of the strategy guide for A-Train, for some random reason, but I won't find a copy of it either. Also, for some reason I'm saving up money to buy SimEarth.

Oh, and I'm getting a sound card and 16x CD-ROM drive this year. (I had a top loading 1x CD-ROM drive already and, like, 3 CDs.) The Multimedia Enhancement Package comes bundled with a bunch of games on CD. Including Unnecessary Roughness '95 and the Interplay 10th anniversary collection.

Chilling in the university dorm room with my SNES. Got me some Mario and Starfox going on.

Next semester I may go ahead and bite the bullet and get one of those Pentium computers and a printer since all these writing assignments have to be typed now. I hear there are some good Microprose simulations to mess with, and yeah X-Wing looks awesome!

Hey, what's this I hear about Sony trying to break into the console market? Playstation? HA! Good luck beating the Sega Genesis.

I hear that The Dig by Lucasarts will finally FINALLY be released next year. I've been waiting for that game forever! Lucas! Spielberg! Card! The guys can do no wrong!

Grenn wrote:

Hey, what's this I hear about Sony trying to break into the console market? Playstation? HA! Good luck beating the Sega Genesis.

Really. I just got back from Sears where they had a demo unit of that thing set up. Buttons labeled "X", "O", "Square", "Triangle"? Seriously? Seemed like a toy system without much potential.

Grenn wrote:

Hey, what's this I hear about Sony trying to break into the console market? Playstation? HA! Good luck beating the Sega Genesis.

Not to mention the Sega Saturn! The Genesis was so good, how could Saturn fail?

I refuse to buy one of these John Madden NFL football games until the Jets have a good team. But I'm optimistic this coming year should be their year.

Kurrelgyre wrote:

A SNES slumber? Did everyone already forget about Donkey Kong Country?

I know right? People keep making a big deal about these 3D systems, but that Virtua Fighter game looks like it's nothing but LEGO people punching each other. Who wants to play a game with LEGO people when you could be playing Donkey Kong country? That's the future art of video games, my friend.

I am 14 going on 15, I'm gonna PC game...

I know it just came out back at the end of November, but have any of you played Warcraft: Orcs and Humans yet? The only thing I can compare it to is Dune II, except that it's set in a fantasy world (Azathoth?) instead of being science fiction.

You have two sides, Orcs and Humans (duh) and you have to expand your base, build farms and mines and that sort of thing then build up your armies and attack the other side.

The big thing is that all this happens in real time! It isn't turn based. That puts a lot more pressure on you. I think these "real time" games are going to get popular and we'll probably see more coming out next year.

George Lucas still hasn't made more than the 3 classic films.

I'm so excited for Ultima VIII!

tanstaafl wrote:

I know it just came out back at the end of November, but have any of you played Warcraft: Orcs and Humans yet? The only thing I can compare it to is Dune II, except that it's set in a fantasy world (Azathoth?) instead of being science fiction.

You have two sides, Orcs and Humans (duh) and you have to expand your base, build farms and mines and that sort of thing then build up your armies and attack the other side.

The big thing is that all this happens in real time! It isn't turn based. That puts a lot more pressure on you. I think these "real time" games are going to get popular and we'll probably see more coming out next year.

It's pretty good and I think this company Blizzard Entertainment may be going places. My review:

Warcraft is based upon a game engine similar to that of Dune 2, except in this game, it's Orcs versus Humans in a bloody battle. Warcraft introduces some interesting twists on the original concept though. Funds are acquired by collecting gold from mines. Send your peons in empty handed, they come streaming out with sacks of gold for you. But it takes more than money to build a town. You also need lumber for raw materials. So while some of your peons are off mining, the rest are hacking away at nearby forests, dragging the planks of wood back to be used.

Ahh, now that you've got your barracks built, you can crank out warrior after warrior after warrior, right? Wrong! In Warcraft, your troops actually have to eat! (Imagine that!) So, you have to ask yourself one question, punk: do you have enough farms to feed all these people? If not, get a peon to build another one. So, unlike Dune 2, there are 3 (not 1) requisites to building up a respectable force.

With money, lumber, and food problems out of the way, you can now focus on your defenses. The basic soldier is a Warrior (or Grunt for Orcs). These can be supplemented with Archers/Spearmen, but these have to be kept in the back, since they don't have shields or very good armor. When you get a stable, you can then train teams of fast moving Knights/Bloodriders, and other buildings allow you to train Catapult crews, Wizards, and Clerics, each with their own distinct advantages.

Good points:

Graphics and detail. Warcraft puts a lot of detail into those little guys on the screen. Watch them go flat when a burning ball of pitch whaps them on the heads. Fireballs drop from the sky at the Wizard's beckon.

Money, lumber, and food. As I stated before, this game has three requirements to satisfy as you build up your city and army. This makes for some more interesting situations, as you worry about more than just quick cash.

Multi-player mode. Always a plus for any game is the ability to wipe your friends off the face of the Earth with an all-out assault, blood mingling with the dirt on the battlefield. Hear the screams of the orcs, as well as the cries of frustration coming from your buddy across the room.

Bad points:

Lack of variety. Well, there's just not as many choices when it comes to units. Peasants, Soldiers, Archers, Knights, Catapults, Wizards, Clerics, and the few summoned beasts. I don't know what else you'd add, I just felt that there should have been more. Maybe there will be in Warcraft 2. Let's wait and see...

Conclusion:

A fun game. While I didn't zombie over it like I did with Dune 2, it certainly held my interest and was a joy to play.

Guys, guys, can we talk about Wing Commander: Privateer CD ROM edition? Because that game is still THE BOMB and the CD ROM includes full speech plus the Righteous Fire expansion. And I'm not sorry to be saying goodbye to the way-too-many floppies install process of the original let me tell you.

(edit: mind playing tricks on me regarding num of floppies. still TOO MANY though)

tanstaafl wrote:

I know it just came out back at the end of November, but have any of you played Warcraft: Orcs and Humans yet? The only thing I can compare it to is Dune II, except that it's set in a fantasy world (Azathoth?) instead of being science fiction.

You have two sides, Orcs and Humans (duh) and you have to expand your base, build farms and mines and that sort of thing then build up your armies and attack the other side.

The big thing is that all this happens in real time! It isn't turn based. That puts a lot more pressure on you. I think these "real time" games are going to get popular and we'll probably see more coming out next year.

Yeah! The UI enhancements in this game are really fantastic. For example, instead of just issuing orders to your units one at a time, you can "group select" up to four units at the same time, issue a command, and all of the units in that group will carry it out!

Chrono Trigger looks like the game that will break my Uniracers addiction (I think I've rented it like three times already). I've already put my $5 deposit down for Chrono—it'll be the first video game I buy with my own money!

Quintin_Stone wrote:

stuff about Warcraft

Dude, it had orcs riding wolves.

ORCS. RIDING WOLVES. How insane will it be if there's a sequel?

Kurrelgyre wrote:
Quintin_Stone wrote:

stuff about Warcraft

Dude, it had orcs riding wolves.

ORCS. RIDING WOLVES. How insane will it be if there's a sequel?

Zeppelins?

What I'm really looking forward to right now is Wing Commander III, but I won't be able to cough up that much for a couple of weeks. This has been kind of an expensive year for gaming already, and then with Christmas presents.... just can't do it. Maybe I'll get it as a gift.

For the last couple months, my life has been mostly consumed by two games: Master of Magic, and UFO: Enemy Unknown. MoM isn't technically anywhere near as good, but it's a ton of fun. I love playing both halflings and dark elves; halflings develop fast, and their slingers are truly deadly, but once dark elves finally get going, they are juggernauts. Doom Bolts make me smile.

And UFO.... wow, the depth in that title is just amazing. There's just so much to it. It's an enormous step forward in gaming. It feels like it came back from the future or something. I can't stress this enough: if you like strategy gaming, and you don't yet have UFO: Enemy Unknown, hie thee down to a game store and purchase it posthaste. You will not regret it.

God, I can't believe how fast games are improving. Just think what they'll be like in another ten years.

Everyone here keeps talking about System Shock. I probably ought to pick that up. Good things you guys were here, or I might have missed it completely.

My big hardware lust right now is the Roland Sound Canvas. I have a friend with one, and holy crap music sounds better that way. It seems like all the devs are going to General Midi, so I feel like I'm missing out by not having one. But it's $400! Sigh.

I gather the Turtle Beach Maui is good, and it's certainly cheaper, but god, the Roland is so beautiful. Maybe I'll pick up one or the other next year.

Oh, and Elysium, you're really missing out. The Genesis is fine, and it has some good games, but: Super Metroid. Any argument you may make in favor of the Genesis is immediately trumped by Super Metroid.

I'm still rocking my PAS-16.

Quintin_Stone wrote:
Kurrelgyre wrote:
Quintin_Stone wrote:

stuff about Warcraft

Dude, it had orcs riding wolves.

ORCS. RIDING WOLVES. How insane will it be if there's a sequel?

Zeppelins?

Unlikely. The beta/leak already had oil tankers.

Tanglebones wrote:

I'm still rocking my PAS-16.

How else would you enjoy a true 16-bit audio card with a separately usable Sound Blaster Pro hardware clone and a SCSI controller in one 16-bit ISA slot?

Quintin_Stone wrote:
Kurrelgyre wrote:
Quintin_Stone wrote:

stuff about Warcraft

Dude, it had orcs riding wolves.

ORCS. RIDING WOLVES. How insane will it be if there's a sequel?

Zeppelins?

naaahhh... they would never try that. That sort of stuff has no place in the setting! What next, kung fu pandas!? Utterly ridiculous, I say!

How else would you enjoy a true 16-bit audio card with a separately usable Sound Blaster Pro hardware clone and a SCSI controller in one 16-bit ISA slot?

I dunno... they're awfully expensive, and then SCSI drives cost a mint. Good if you're well-heeled, I suppose, but we poorer gamers have to make do.

Pages