Monday, June 26, 2006

My history with electronic games, part 4: 2000s

Part 1 is here, part 2 is here, and part 3 is here.

By the time the year 2000 rolled in, I had essentially missed the second computer game revolution of fast graphics, video consoles, and the like. My game tastes were honed on Bridge, Magic, and now board games.

Lack of money and lack of desire to continue sitting in front of a computer were part of it. But far more was the desire to not only "play" by myself, but to create a game playing community, low-tech but high-fun. The board games I played were unlike anything else in the world; they were not "board games" sold to children and played by parents reluctantly with their kids. They were a whole world of treasure, like discovering an entire genus in biology. And I wanted to share this and to gather real people around me. You can't help but feel lonely if you play alone all day on a computer.

I did try a few games just to see what the hype was all about. But I loathed loathed the violence in most games - graphic blood and explosions, the horrible sounds of dying screams, and so on. Just, ugh. Galaxian has explosions, but they were low res explosions of people-less blips of colored light. I can't imagine sitting and listening to screams and dying for any length of time. When my son plays games (no FPS's, but civ games with battles) I insist that the sound is off when I am in the house.

Baldur's Gate II

This is as representative as any game for beautiful graphics, solid story, incredible sophistication, huge game space and strategy options, and as close as possible to recreating the D&D feel.

I played it a half a dozen times. It's good. If I were younger, maybe I would have continued playing. But as it is, it reminded me so much of CCA (Zork), that I felt "been there, done that". While I'm impressed with the graphics, all that really matters to me is the game play, and it wasn't a game so much as a vast puzzle. Figuring out the puzzle pieces didn't give me any particular satisfaction, because the solutions didn't require much ingenuity, only discovery through trial and error. That's fun if you've never done something like that before.


Although I was part of the game community in the 90s, active on Usenet groups and mailing lists, BGG was the first permanent location on which I became active. Springing from that experience I created a website for my game group, and then this blog.

BGG also has a few board games to play online, the only one of which is of value is Tigris and Euphrates. Playing that game online taught me how woefully bad I am.


When it comes to real-time board gaming online, BSW is the undisputed ruler of the manor. Not only does it have the best games, it has many of them, and a lot of the original graphics to go along with them. The quality of the opponents are also quite good, although some group think can occur.

The English interface gets better slowly over time. If I had time to play online, and I was looking for the board game experience, this is where I would be. It's also a good way to preview games before buying.


Just about the only downloadable game that I've played multiple times (after Dx-ball). The AI is good enough for almost anyone, and will give you enough experience to graduate to the 11x11 board, at least.


This was the first "major" game that I bought intending to play. The only other one was Baldur's Gate II, which was really for my son. I bought other games for my son as well, with no intention of playing them myself.

I bought it because I heard that it was beautiful and had no combat. That made is totally a puzzle, of course. I was hoping that the experience would feel immersive at least. It didn't really, and puzzles like the ones in this game (obscure clues hidden all over the place and the occasional arbitrary actions) just ain't my thing, after all.

I bought Riven together with Myst, but I never opened it.


Although I enjoy the real-time experience on BSW, this email/web version satisfied my ability to play at irregular times throughout the day without paying much attention, and was one of the only ways to play with my friend who couldn't make the game group and sat behind a firewall at work.

I achieved first place after playing for a while and eventually got bored of working to keep my place.

And, barring any memory losses, that's about it. Anything I'm looking forward to?

I'm looking forward to electronic board game tables that will let you play numerous board games with the correct programs. Only I fear that they will be destroyed before they even begin with DRM, limited use, poor execution, proprietary issues, high cost, and other problems.

One day when the kids are out of the house, I am looking forward to trying out a few MMORPG's, especially the less combative ones.

I would love to see MMO Eurogames, with players getting resources, trading, negotiating, developing, and so on. It's just that RPGs and war games, with their open design and simple victory conditions are so easily adapted to this type of environment. Euros, with their very specific turn ordering, resource management, and victory conditions, are vastly different beasts.

Still, I think it can be done.

Imagine an expandable spherical world of hexagons where each new player squeezed into play between three to six other players - those are your immediate opponents. While logged in, you have the opportunity to bid on auctions against these opponents, trade with these opponents, and so on.

You compete to build 3D buildings around your locations which give various benefits and populate them with workers according to some price tables. And so on. You score victory points and collect income.

It could be a lot of fun.


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