Was there a Dark Age of computer gaming?......

…Or am I just imagining it?

Let me explain. Apparently, computer CD-ROMs have been around since the early 80s. But if you wanted to buy one back then, you had to sell your house, your car, an arm and a leg and maybe your soul too.

That was until the early 90s, when the CD-ROM revolution came! CD-ROM drives, while still quite expensive, they were now affordable to the home user. And since drives started spreading, the first CD-ROM games emerged.

And that’s what I call the Dark Age of Computer Gaming. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that maybe 95% of the games of that era was crap^2 (squared). Game developers suddenly jumped from 1.4MB floppies to 650MB of space. They would cram as much graphics, music and video as possible, but would totaly forget about gameplay. I remember games like Journeyman, MegaRace, Rise of the Robots, The Vortex or Creature Shock, all of them full of really good graphics and sound (even by todays standards) but extremely linear and boring.

Another product of that era was dumb-ass educational “multimedia” programs. A new one each day. Most of them poorly made and extremely boring.

Well, am I right or what? I was only 12-13 years old back then (born 1980) so I might be wrong.
(BTW, what happened to “multimedia”? I haven’t heared that word for years)

I would say that the Dark Ages of videogames occured in the late 80s to early 90s. Basically, it was the time after the classics like Spyhunter and Defender started to get old and dated, but before games like Doom, Starcraft and Command & Conquer introduced us to the “first person shooter” and “real time strategy” game.

Oh, I don’t know. I could think of a number of classics from either period. For example, a lot of Lucasart’s best games came out during the late 80’s/early 90’s.

In fact, give me a few minutes, and I could probably come out with a list longer than your arm of really great games from the early 90’s. The late 80’s might be harder for me to remember, at least for the PC (I didn’t have one at that point).

You do have a point about cd-rom games, though. I can’t really recall any cd-rom only games that old that were really all that great. It wasn’t until around Quake 1, I think, that games really needed that amount of storage. The games that really made a point about being cd-rom only at that time tended to be kinda gimmicky since designers couldn’t really count on cd drives being the usual equipment.

If you want a real Dark Age, you should’ve seen the gaming scene before 1983 or so. :wink:

I remember playing “Turtle” on the Apple IIe and being excited about it. For those who don’t know what it’s about, here’s a brief explanation:
You’ve got a turtle which actually just like a mouse cursor. It sits in the middle of the screen. You then type out directions telling it how far it should go forward, and then how much to turn.Something like FORWARD140 and then TURN 90, the Turtle would then scoot across the screen leaving a trail. You could have it repeat these and leave a long trail too. That was fun.

For me, it seems that with each new technological advance that computer games have just become fun again. It’s hard to look at that game compared to the stuff that’s out on the market now and have a concept of how little it took to entertain us. :smiley: That being said, I remember when CD-Roms first came on the market, spending waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too long on Myst (esp in that stupid rockship, grr). Since then, crap is still coming out based on awesome graphics (American McGee’s Alice was a beautiful game visually, but boring as hell to play outside of that. Jumping on logs was done in Activision’s Pitfall, thank you) or graphics with a commercial tie-in (Shrek/Shrek2 have both been pisspoor games). Then at the same time, games like Wolfenstein, Everquest, or the Sims that redeem computer gaming altogether and balance out the more abundant bad stuff.

Don’t forget Wolfenstein 3D. Sorry, but I have a soft spot for that game.

When did the CD-ROM tex Murphy games come out? Under a Killing moon and the Pandora Directive. Both of those were actually good uses of the CD-ROM format.

The dark ages? For PC gaming. One word:


Memory management :eek:

OK two words

DOS Memory management :eek:

three words

You practically needed a separate boot disc for each bleeding game. I started as a PC newbie trying to get DOS games to run. You’d constantly get “not enough memory - BotKill requires 750K” (or somesuch) you’d be yelling at the f**king PC

“I’ve got eight f**king Meg - how come you can’t find 750K you piece of sh*t!” (8Meg was a lot of memory back then)

As for the games, the only one I remember as being any good from back then was DuneII. The graphics were primitive but the gameplay was fine.

I don’t think the CD was the problem. The software companies would have just put out the same games on several floppies!

The real Dark Age of Computer Gaming, at least for MS-DOS, was when CGA and the PC Jr. were introduced to compete in the home computer market that had been dominated by Commodore and Apple and their 16-color displays.

I only had that problem with Aces over Europe, that game had some huge base memory requirements. DOS 6 and its memmaker worked wonders for everything else. Prior to DOS 6, I had learned all I could about freeing up base memory. The main culprits: loading DOS into low memory and allocating too many drive letters.

DUNE II dammit.

I’d say we’re hitting rock-bottom just about now.

Most of what you guys are mentioning are hardware type problems- CD issues, memory issues, etc…

Here’s my take:

Pre-history of gaming: the Zork era and other text based games. Just starting out, and not established well yet.

Golden Age: mid 1980’s through about 1995 or thereabouts. Lots of innovative, creative, and unique games produced, as well as entire genres created. Wolfenstein 3D(first person shooter), the Ultima series, Dune (one of the first RTS games), most of your fighting games, Civilization, etc…

Since then it seems like 90% or more of new titles are just variations on themes created back then. Starcraft? C&C? Both real-time strategy a-la Dune or even Empire. Quake? Unreal? Again, FPS games like Doom or Wolfenstein 3D.

What’s been really new and innovative in the past say… 9 years? The only thing I can think of that’s really fresh is the concept of games like Ultima Online or Everquest, and in many ways, even that’s just a graphical version of even older MUDs.

Don’t get me wrong, there were LOTS of good games released 1995-present. Fallout(even if it was a remake of Wasteland), Half-Life, Rainbow 6 1-3, Diablo I and II (some of my favorites), and some extraordinary takes on older concepts- Civilization III, Gettysburg! and the new AD&D games starting with Baldur’s Gate come to mind.

I think a good part of it is the rise of corporate influence in game production. I can’t remember what this was called in business school, but it’s the phenomenon where at first there are lots of companies in a market, then they gradually consolidate and start to look like each other. That’s what I think happened to gaming- it’s become the province of the corporate types, and is following a rather TV-esque path. If it’s not close to something out there, then it doesn’t get greenlighted.

In my opinion, the state of gaming sucks when I can go to Best Buy or CompUSA once a month for 3 straight months and not see but 2-3 new games, and maybe 1 of them is worth buying.

Yeah, look what happened to EA and Mastertronic. Both were originally organized to give independent developers a voice in the market. EA is now huge and Mastertronic was absorbed into Virgin Entertainment, which subsequently got out of the software business.

How about the early days when you actually had to manually enter the code to play the game. You’d buy a video game magazine that listed something like a thousand lines of code. You then had to type all the lines in order to play the game. Of course you could always save your progress to cassette. Anyhow, after hours of typing basic commands you’d try to run the program, and you’d usually get something like FOR NEXT ERROR. You’d then have to scramble to the video game magazine and double-check the line in question for typos. Hopefully you made a typo; if the magazine made a typo, you were screwed because you didn’t actually know what the code meant. Repeat this debugging process for about an hour, and you might be able to play something like Crazy Climber.

This sounds disturbingly familiar, but I remember the name as “LOGO”. The cursor was definitely called a “turtle” though. Perhaps “Turtle” was the name of the client? Anyhow, I actually won a trophy – at the state level – for being the best elementary-school-aged programmer in the LOGO language. The commands I remember were

FD - forward
RT - right turn
LT - left turn
BK - backward
PU - pen up
PD - pen down
REPEAT - primitive looping, e.g. “REPEAT 4 (FD 20, RT 90)” would draw a square
PC - pen color (PC BLUE, and so on)
BG - background (BG BLUE)

…and at the time, I remember that it was considered a programming language rather than a game. Although it was hella fun. :smiley:

When was Myst (the original) released? I remember my friend and I being awestruck at its beauty.


The early 90’s gave us Sim City(well late 80’s on that one after checking), Civilization, Wing Commander, and Dune. Civilization was one of the most influencial game of all time, and Dune was played by everybody, and started the huge boom in resource gathering, which Warcraft vaulted to the sky. And the already mentioned Wolfenstein 3D

I really can’t remember the majority of the games out, because there were 5 or six good ones that everybody played all the freakin’ time

That’s gotta be it! I forgot about changing the colors too (and apparently the real name). Good times. Good times.

I hope that by “videogames” you mean “computer games.” I have very fond memories of 8-bit classics from that period.

Thanks. I use imdb all the time, but had no idea it did video games. Good to know.