Wednesday, February 21, 2007


For the last several weeks my desktop wallpaper is some artwork that was used in Fallout. I picked it because I have been wishing lately for a chance to play an old style turn based combat game. Something Coyote just said really made these thought crystallize for me today. I’m really not a fan of the current click-until-one-of-you-dies style of game play. I never enjoyed Diablo or any of its many, many, many clones. I’m talking about old style – X:COM, Jagged Alliance, Fallout style games. I really miss them.

I don’t know of any games that would scratch that particular psychic itch. David Moffat of has created a game called Omega Syndrome that may help. I almost installed my current copy the other day but decided to contact him about recent updates. He said he is about to release a final version really soon now so I’m waiting for him for now.

I also own the games mentioned above but I’m not desperate enough yet to figure out how to make them play on a current system since they are all fairly old games. I’m sure that I would be saddened to get them running only to realize how dated they look now. Even while enjoying them I’m sure I’d wish that someone would create a game with that style but using current production values.

I know I’m in the minority here. Obviously the clicky games are popular because they sell – and they must sell because people like them.

It’s enough to make me think: why don’t I like them when everyone else does?

I can think of some things that answer that. Clicky games don’t lend themselves to parties. Clicky games take away the repeated tactical puzzle element of combat. Clicky games seem to fast.

I enjoy putting together a group to explore the game world with. This may only be for nostalgic reasons but I remember one of my favorite parts of early RPG games was deciding which four characters I would create or take along with me as I entered the game. One aspect of the early Ultima games I loved was looking around for each of the familiar party members and getting them to join the group for one more crack at saving Britannia. One of the reasons that Ultima 7: Serpent Isle ranks so high on my favorite-o-meter is that early in the game an important member of your party is separated from you in a dramatic fashion and you spend a chunk of the game figuring out how to rescue him. I guess I’m just a grouper. And while that makes me sound very fish like I mean instead one that likes playing in a group even if the group is all imaginary friends.

Another aspect of the old style I like is the puzzle element. I spent hours working on the squaddies in X:COM trying to get the perfect blend of small arms, heavy arms and skills into one squad. I’d compare statistics and load outs between different squads and see which one worked best in what situation. Even with all that optimization there would come moments like when I’ve just come up against a new alien with some new capability and all my careful balancing work is now useless because three of the squaddies have just been brain-eaten and turned into bad guys and now I have a whole new tactical environment and need to figure out what to do next or I’m about to loose the mission. The thrill of puzzling out what to do and how to do it was satisfying. Clicky games seem to remove all of the tactical elements from combat instead replacing them with strategic choices of what do I equip my characters with before meeting up with the bad guys and clicking my mouse button as fast as I can. Strategic elements are fun – X:COM again displays that well between building and provisioning your bases all they way down to equipping your response teams but when combat begins I really want tactics to be important. Tactics are NOT: how well I can manipulate my mouse and keyboard but rather important choices in how I allocate the finite resources available to me and how I respond to the situation as I work through the mission. These are choices that do not lend themselves well to rapid clicking in a real time game – in fact they become silly in real time combat style games. Only in turn based games are you truly capable of implementing effective tactical solutions to evolving game play.

Now I have to admit that I haven’t played very many of the new style clicky games. I did play Diablo and I played Dungeon Siege. I didn’t really enjoy either one and never finished either. And I haven’t had much good to think about that style of game play since then. They felt to fast – to simple – to repetitive to remain interesting for long to me. Maybe there are new ones that have over come these problems and if there are I hope someone will let me know what they are.


Anonymous said...

Heh heh, stumbled across The Omega Syndrome today only a short time ago before following some links about turn-based combat systems to here. I wonder too why those real-time click fests sell so well that they become "greatest hits" and there are 20 new or used copies per store, and I have to either pre-order or snatch up the only copy in the store of the games that I like. Sort of like not being able to find pants in my size - is it because they're so popular, or not enough are being made?

Drake Tungsten said...

Hmmmm, that is a good question. Is this a classic example of the malice or incompetence question? I have heard many times how the diamond market is manipulated to create a higher demand – clearly that isn’t happening with RST vs. Turn based games so it’s probably not malice. I guess that means the answer is incompetence but then that raises the question of whose incompetence. Is it the player, the developer, the marketer/publisher, or the over-all culture of gamers now? I wish I had a good answer for that one.

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