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The Golden Age of PC Gaming

By Shamus
on Friday Sep 5, 2008
Filed under:
Column

 
 

In my earlier rant against the current-gen Frankenstein graphics cards, a couple of people were quick to point out that while modern-day system-specs are indeed impenetrable to most people, the good old days of PC gaming weren’t much better. In the early 90’s, we had to fiddle around with config.sys and autoexec.bat to get games to work, make special boot disks, and know what freaking port and IRQ thingjigger our soundcard was hooked into. It was appalling.

She’s not a 10,000 polygon bump-mapped model, but Cate Archer of No One Lives Forever 2 manages to look pretty dang good.  Okay, her outfit is over-the-top, but that’s the fault of the 60’s spy movie heroines she’s sending up, not the graphics engine.
She’s not a 10,000 polygon bump-mapped model, but Cate Archer of No One Lives Forever 2 manages to look pretty dang good. Okay, her outfit is over-the-top, but that’s the fault of the 60’s spy movie heroines she’s sending up, not the graphics engine.
Those were the rough and tumble years before the new technology settled into place and was packaged and distilled for the average consumer. PC Gaming was a niche back then. And as much as I hate to say it, I think Windows was good for PC Gaming. It handled that stupid memory management / soundcard nonsense and gave developers a “stable” platform on which to build. Once you’ve paid the overhead in memory and performance, having an operating system there is actually pretty nice. It eventually made it possible for non-technical people to play some PC games.

About the time TV commercials for videogames start showing up you can say the hobby has come into its own and it’s time to start acting like responsible producers. If you’re advertising to the Average Joe, then Joe had darn well better be able to use the thing when he gets it home.

And there was a period of time where that was (mostly) true. PC Games peaked somewhere between 1997 and 2002. That was our golden age. It was after the stone age of DOS, but before the four horsemen of bugs, DRM, graphics fixation, and console-itis came in and made a mess of things. We had graphics cards that opened up a new age of 3d, but they were simple to buy and would last for years. (They could arguably outlast your PC. Mine did.)

Check out the games of 1998:

1998

StarCraft, Unreal, Fallout 2, Grim Fandango, Half-Life, Thief: The Dark Project

Four franchises saw their beginning in 1998. The only sequel of note was Fallout 2. (It was, sadly, pretty buggy. But ONE buggy sequel and FIVE incredible new games is a complete inversion of what we’re getting these days.) I played four of those games again this year.

1999

System Shock 2, Quake III Arena, Unreal Tournament, Planescape: Torment, Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, Homeworld, Outcast, Kingpin: Life of Crime, Rollercoaster Tycoon

I own every single one of those. I’d call most of them classics. I could fire up any one of them right now and have a blast. (Okay, maybe not Kingpin, but still.. that was a really good year.)

2000

The Sims, Deus Ex, Diablo II, Escape from Monkey Island, The Operative: No One Lives Forever, The Longest Journey

Another banner year. Again, this is ignoring the lesser games, and expansion packs.

I think what makes the Golden Age of PC Gaming so special is that we were in a sweet spot, visually. Graphics were at the point where games could be immersive and atmospheric, but they didn’t cost a fortune to produce. As development became more complex and costs rose, other aspects of the game had to be cut to pay for the bling-mapping. I can’t imagine ever getting another game as immense as the original Unreal. I can’t imagine getting another game as deep as System Shock 2 or Deus Ex. (Both BioShock and Deus Ex 2 were greatly simplified when compared to their predecessors.) We have less room for risky new ideas like Thief.

pcgames_timeline.jpg

Sure, graphics are better now, but we have sacrificed almost every other aspect of gameplay to get those graphics. A few games manage to get good graphics, and gameplay, and stability, and half-decent backwards compatibility (Half-Life 2 comes to mind) but most fail to deliver on at least two of those.

Sometime around 2002 backwards compatibility began to shrink, so that you needed to stay a little more up-to-date to be able to shop in the “New Releases” section. Graphics cards started to get harder to understand. Release & patch became the common solution to dealing with the expense of playtesting. Games got shorter & shallower.

Every time I bring this up I get people posting helpful suggestions like, “Yeah it sucks buy a console and stop whining.” Which misses the whole point of these posts. I’m not complaining because I can’t figure out where in this great big world I have to go to get more games. I’m talking about this stuff because it needs to be said. Look at titles like Haze, Crysis, and Quake 4. Think of the millions and millions of dollars being wasted on these short, dull tech demos. Think of the games we could be playing with that kind of cash being thrown around.

I played Quake 4 a while back. It was shallow, but amusing. But I’ll bet for the budget of Quake 4 you could (if you dialed back the graphics to 2002 levels) build a breakthrough along the lines of Thief or System Shock 2, with the added bonus that just about every PC out there would be able to run the thing. Imagine, you could spend the same money and make more money and give customers more value.

As always, I’m watching what the indie developers are doing. They don’t have the luxury of making these kinds of mistakes once, much less year after year. Indies don’t quite have access to cheap tools that can give us Golden-Age graphics without a lot of additional work, but the tools are getting better every year, and the gap left by big-name publishers is getting ever-wider.

It’s also worth noting here that Good Old Games is a new site that will be selling DRM-free versions of the classics for cheap. The public beta starts soon. I already own most of those games, but once the place opens up I’m going to go fishing and see if there’s anything I missed. For $5 – $10 USD, you probably can’t go wrong.

Just for fun: Name a few of your favorite games. I’m willing to bet if we collected a list of favorite PC games from people old enough to remember all three ages of PC Gaming, we would see that the games form a Gaussian distribution somewhere around 1997-2002.

Here’s to the Golden Age. May our emulators never fail us.


 
 
Comments (177)

1 2 3

  1. scarbunny says:

    I was about to post the escapist article.

    However they seem to be cofusing hype with quality. Sighting Bioshock, GTA4, and MGS4, all good games in their own right but are they really as good as the classics of the 90s?

    I would rather play planescape than any of these.

  2. Stranger says:

    Favorite games? Worth it to note I specifically learned how to make a multiple-boot autoexec.bat because of memory management and boot disk issues. But you asked for it, so five games which I was playing the most in that time period.

    – X-Wing vs TIE Fighter (The whole series in fact. The CDRom version still is in my hands, and was where the multiple-boot started. )
    – Eye of the Beholder 2 (I liked it more than the first game, for some reason; I just finished it again earlier this year.)
    – Master of Orion 2 (Psilons over all, and who needs custom races? Again . . . still playing it!)
    – Diablo 2 (Which, mind you, I don’t play now; I had my fill . . . brother and I decided Hell difficulty was TOO unfair and moved on to other games.)
    – StarCraft (Yes, yes, my brother and I would play on BattleNet and specifically go out to screw with people. One time we joined a game and just hid our SCVs in the map corner. Why? Because it pissed people off!)

    Honorable mentions

    – Counter Strike (“Hey, AWP is banned on this server . . . okay you’re not allowed to use the Scout anymore . . . okay, don’t use anything other than USP . . . you MUST be using aimhack, cheater!” Bonus points because I know my brother wasn’t; he was playing it on my machine.)

    – Neverwinter Nights (Because it was just that damn good, yes. I’d still be playing it, if I could find my discs.)

    – X-Com: Terror From the Deep (Yes I was still playing it earlier this year. No, I haven’t beaten it yet.)

    – Morrowind (Okay, technically shouldn’t be on here since I started playing it in 2004 and SERIOUSLY started on it in 2005. No, I haven’t beaten this one either.)

    – Riven: The Sequel to Myst

  3. Groboclown says:

    Shamus: It wasn’t all flowers and bunnies. Remember Ultima IX? 1999. Ugh. I bought my Voodoo 3 card just for this game.

    However, It’s interesting that you bring this up. I just upgraded my home PCs, and I’ve been recently pulling out my old games to see if they work or not. Here’s my current been played / playing / to-be-played list:

    – Grim Fandango
    – Escape from Monkey Island (use D3D on current machines, because in OpenGL mode, the graphics switch to the desktop doesn’t work)
    – Half-Life (use OpenGL here, as the D3D has issues switching back and forth to the menu)
    – System Shock 2 (never finished it)
    – Vampire: Bloodlines (with the right bug fixes, it’s actually rather good)
    – The Little Big Adventure series (Relentless and Twinsen’s Odyssey are the US titles; LBA Win allows you to play Relentless on modern PCs, fixes some of the bugs with the original, and make the game generally more playable).

    One thing I really like about the state of the PC now is the emulator support. I’m able to play classics like the LucasArts SCUMM goodness, along with the older console games. Some of these games I wouldn’t be able to bear playing (such as any of the NES or SNES Final Fantasy games) except that the emulators allow me to save the state of a game, which keeps me from having to fuddle with the save point junk.

  4. Stranger says:

    Whomever has posted “Nethack” has mistaken a masochist experience for a game. You don’t “play” Nethack, you survive it. Yes, thank you, I have given it a spin. Yes, it is an extraordinary piece of work. No, I will not call it a “good game” :P it is an EVIL game, one of the only ones which I died in 3 moves.

  5. Jeff says:

    Anyone remember Crusader: No Regret?
    That was fun…

    That game, and Jagged Alliance 1, were really the games that got me into games, I think. Which is not to say I haven’t played anything prior, but those two games and a little game called Star Reach were the first real games I remember.

    And they ROCK.

    I feel old, yet I also vaugely wish I was born earlier. So that the golden age would coincide with my “have income” age.

  6. Deltaway says:

    1. Homeworld
    2. Portal
    3. Starcraft

  7. Vao Ki says:

    In the Dark Age of gaming (DOS) I used to play Dig-Dug and (I think it was called…) Wizards and Warriors. Dumb games, but they worked. What made my old Atari 800 XL worth having though was learning to make my own games in Basic.

    Anyway, this is supposed to be about really good, memorable games so on with my personal list:

    Doom & Doom II
    Warcraft series (It just got better and better)
    Starcraft
    Might and Magic (First 1st person I played I think)
    Ultima part anything
    Halflife (Outstanding gameplay/story)
    Diablo I, II and I’m sure III
    Wizardry part whatever
    Final Fantasy series once it came to PC
    Original Pool of Radiance, as mentioned above
    Dungeon Siege I & II (My daughter loves these)
    Dungeon Keeper (Turned the tables on the genre)
    Once Upon a Knight (Send in the Mother-In-Laws!)
    Arcanum (Ugly game by current standards, but it had
    an interesting take on character design.
    Will you master magic or machines?)
    King’s Quest series (esp. the early ones)
    Vampire: Bloodlines was really good too

    I’m sure I missed a few I just can’t think of at the moment.

    Then there are the MMOs…

    Everquest (Instant classic)
    Dark Age of Camelot
    City of Heroes/Villains (Awesome character generator)
    World of Warcraft (Of course)
    Guild Wars (My current obsession, still)

  8. ryanlb says:

    Diablo II
    Jedi Academy
    JK2: Jedi Outcast
    Red Alert 2
    Tiberian Sun
    Hitman 2, 3, 4
    Warcraft 2, 3
    Knights of the Old Republic
    Total Annihilation

  9. Zaidyer says:

    Funny how the Golden Age of PC games happens to take place during the years when computers were more unstable than they had ever been, or would ever be again, thanks to Windows 98 and ME.
    I would argue that the Dark Ages (Specifically 1991-1997) were more interesting. DOS wasn’t easy, but at least it didn’t crash randomly without warning. Game developers were small-time companies staffed by huge nerds, more willing to be creative and take risks. Most games back then were labors of love. It was a time before every developer got it into their head that IPOs were a good idea, and we all know how well THAT turned out. I can name at least four companies now that are all Golden Age LucasArts/Westwood/Origin/etc in disguise, having been unflinchingly fired EN MASSE (Usually by EA of course) from the company they made great.

  10. tussock says:

    Hmm. Interesting.

    90 Speedball 2
    92 Darklands, Dune 2, F1GP, Populous
    93 Doom, Sim City 2000, UFO
    94 Cannon Fodder, Doom II, Masters of Magic, TIE Fighter
    95 Dark Forces, Descent, Transport Tycoon Deluxe
    96 Abuse, GP2, Quake, Worms
    97 Carmageddon, Diablo, Fallout, Incubation, Jedi Knight, MoO2, Myth, Shadow Warrior, Theme Hospital, X-COM 3
    98 Dark Omen, Grand Prix Legends, Grand Theft Auto, Starcraft, Total Annihilation
    99 SMAC, Freespace 2, Rollercoaster Tycoon, ToCA 2
    00 CMR2, GP3, Q3A
    01 Serious Sam
    03 Galactic Civilizations

    Other than that, mostly non-commercial rogue-likes, or endless remakes of tetris or breakout. Perhaps the odd scrolling shooter, like Swiv 3D or something. And the remakes of all the above that keep turning up to make use of modern grunt.

    Fancy coloured lighting, complex transparencies, and detailed shadows killed PC gaming for me. Too many layers of this and that to pimp the multi-channeled graphics cards means more work for the same content, which means less content. But content is King, and fan content that is easy to build is the ultimate for any game.

    I recall when it was awesome that a computer game could sustain 20 FPS, then when it was shameful that they couldn’t hold 30 FPS on a two-year old box, and now how awesome it is if they don’t periodically drop to 7 FPS on this week’s new $1000 card.

  11. DaveMc says:

    A little off the main topic, here, but …

    Deoxy wrote (*way* back in comment 41):

    The OS should OWN memory. That's one of its primary jobs . . . Third party stuff should be INCAPABLE of breaking the OS, as the stuff that can break the OS should be inaccessible to them.

    I agree, but I wonder if you (or someone) might be able to clear up a mystery for me: why are applications apparently able to crash Mac OS X? It’s a Unix core (that’s what got me to switch away from Linux), but every once in a while it hangs (not often, but not *never*), and it appears to be the fault of an application that has somehow managed to bring down the entire system. My understanding, like yours apparently, was that this should be impossible, not merely unlikely. Does this mean that I’m wrong, it’s actually not the application causing the hang, or is there some way for applications to get around the OS’s control?

  12. Tesh says:

    @133 Jeff,
    The Crusader games were awesome. A bit graphic for my taste, really, but the gameplay was just so much fun that I soldiered on.

    Erm… I’m sure that I could make a huge list, but just a few off the top of my head:

    Star Control 2 (my first major time sink as a computer game, and it’s still the best in its class)
    Master of Orion (1 and 2, for different reasons)
    Master of Magic
    MechCommander (any of the “three”, each were great for different reasons)
    Privateer
    Descent (1 & 2… I never played 3)
    Conquests of the Longbow
    Myst
    SimCity 2000
    Civilization
    Alpha Centauri
    Warcraft (each for different reasons)
    Starcraft
    Tron 2.0
    …and I much prefer Titan Quest over Diablo, but that’s more recent.

    …but I still haven’t found anything on a PC to match my love of Final Fantasy Tactics. Any ideas?

  13. K says:

    You listed all of my top ten there. I could not agree more to those being the golden years of PC-gaming.

    Torment (hell, the box is on my desk *right now*), Starcraft (Broodwar), Diablo II, Total Annihilation, System Shock 2 (I can see the box from here, it’s on my shelf), Halflife (with TeamFortress), Age of Empires 1+2, Master of Orion 2, Warcraft II, Super Smash Brothers Melee (bought a GC for that one!) the list is quite long.

    Most of them have sequels, and nearly all (except the Blizzard and Valve titles possibly) sequels are worse than the original, only look fancier.

    There are a couple current ones (Zelda Twilight Princess, TF2, WoW) but those are the rare exception.

  14. ASSASSINO says:

    Diablo 2 one of my most played games.

    ufo 1 i loved playin this game, my limit were my eyes that become red after some massive hours of playing.

    warcraft 1 was a total innovation in rts games for me.

    then castle wolfenstein and doom 1, tie fighter, this were some of the games that were a complete revolution.

    Nowdays titles don´t bring anything new, it´s play for 10 hours then you will be bored.

    only company of heroes is something nice online,

  15. Tom says:

    Lots of good games on the lists, here. I’ll add Another World (1991). Not the best of all-time, but definitely worth mention.

  16. Osvaldo Mandias says:

    Oh, yeah . . . Pirates! Scorched Earth! Lemmings! How could I forget you?

  17. Bryan says:

    So, there are still people who remember the Commodore 64, eh? It was my first gaming computer. It was slow and the graphics was cheesy, but that didn’t stop people from making good entertaining games. My favorites from that era are the ultima series, Druid, and the Flight Simulator. By the way, I still have my C<64, still in working condition, and I still play the old games once in a while. I also have a PC with XP, which I use much more often.

  18. JoCommando says:

    WarCraft II ““ my first real PC game ““ delayed my learning long division for almost a year. The game's presentation was just perfect and StarCraft (“WarCraft in space!” as one of my young friends eagerly described it before it was released) refined it so well.

    WarCraft III never resonated with me the same way because you the player were removed from the storyline, unlike in the previous two where you were addressed during mission briefings. Such a small, classic element and yet so essential to immersion that I resented WC3's big-budget “this game is too good for you to be a character in it” attitude.

  19. froogger says:

    Wow, all these great games of yore and here’s me thinking I have nothing to add. Well, yes I do:
    Magic Carpet (1994) – challenging but definitely worth the effort. In fact, I don’t remember Bullfrog ever producing a dud, they were a gem-mine of stellar proportions (Populous, Syndicate, Theme Park, Dungeon Keeper). Actually, I reckon the golden age of PC gaming was areound mid-nineties, bootdisks be damned.

    Seeing that someone cares enough about the oldies to venture into that market (GoG) I will abandon my old pirated collection and buy from them. I certainly will get Colonization, Tie Fighter, Carmageddon etc if they’re available. Oh, and there’s so many mentioned above that I never got to play. Where will I find the time?

  20. The Poet says:

    In no particular order:
    Age of Empires 1&2, especially Conquerors expansion
    Civ.net, Civilization 1
    C&C: Red Alert 1
    Quake 1
    Counter-Source Strike
    Half-Life 2 series
    BFME1 pre-patch 1.03
    The Longest Journey & Dreamfall
    Jedi Academy
    Oregon Trail
    Warcraft 1&2
    Worms 1

  21. Kell says:

    I shall refrain from adding to the extensive verbiage by listing my own golden age games without further elaboration, and instead post to say only this:

    “bling-mapping” is pure gold. Sweetly succinct, yet satisfyingly scathing. I’m going to be using the term myself from now on.

  22. Kel'Thuzad says:

    I was about 7 at the time of the Golden Age, so I hope you’ll forgive me if I’ve played none of the games you’re talking about.

  23. TainInfernus says:

    Doom and those old demos that came with Duke Nukem 3D, plus that game itself will always live on in my heart as the originals.
    Doom, and the user-created tools from the released source code, really did INVENT the idea of modding a game as we know it today. That’s one thing I really do like about the gaming industry today: the modding community is actively supported. Custom content is helped along by providing SDKs along with the game.
    If only they had a map editor for Stalker, then I’d be in heaven.
    But with these multi-million dollar tech demos, throw it over to the guys on their couches, they make great stuff all the time from the potential wasted by these games.
    If it’s possible to create an entire game in 97 kilobytes (see .kkrieger) then imagine what this industry could do if they had really imaginative people behind the wheel.

    My nostalgic games consist of SimTown, Doom, Duke3D + demos, Dr Brain, every id Software game, Half-Life, etc. I was alive and gaming through the DOS phase, all the way up to today. I remember when I was 6, playing King’s Quest 5 on an old 386 with DOS, having those freakin huge floppies, and having to learn command-line language to run those damn things.

  24. Brian Durbin says:

    Lets see my favorites were Baldurs gate 1&2, Icewind dale, Planescape: Torment, Fallout 1&2, Empire earth, Civilization 3, Dues ex and Age of empires 1&2. However there are tons of games i love that didn’t come out in that time. Particularly interplay and id games. I enjoyed wasteland and dragon wars just as much as Baldurs gate 2. Other games that were awesome that didnt come out in 1997-2002 were alone in the dark, Doom 1&2, Quake, Out of this world and Wolfenstein 3d. There were tons of great games in 1997-2002 but i liked the ones from 1985-1995 Just as much.

  25. Klay says:

    I gotta go with Starcraft.

    Yeah I know the AI sucked a rusty nut(by today’s standards, but good God was that game ever fun.

    I’ve put more hours into playing the Original and Brood War (single and multi-player) than I have anything that came after combined.

    The only other game which come anywhere close to that is Oblivion.

  26. Anym says:

    I think I’d call the period around 1998 (preferring 1997 over 2000) period probably the Silver Age of PC Gaming, with the Golden Age occurring earlier, probably around 1994, during the last days of DOS before Windows 95 took over. You call it the Stone Age, but keep in mind that unlike the early nineties, memory woes and boot disks were largely a thing of the past thanks to 32-bit DOS Extenders (remember the line “DOS/4GW Protected Mode Run-time Version 1.97”) as were soundcard troubles thanks to well-working auto-detection in installers (remeber the line “HMI module Alpha-Humana on approach to space station Mercury”). I won’t argue that Windows was good for PC gaming by further simiplifying matters.

    Check out the games of 1993:
    Betrayal at Krondor, Doom, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle, Master of Orion, Sam & Max Hit the Road, Syndicate, Wing Commander: Privateer, X-Wing

    Only one of those games was a sequel and all the others spawned sequels of their own.

    1994:
    Beneath a Steel Sky, Doom II: Hell on Earth, Master of Magic, Panzer General, Realms of Arkania: Star Trail, Sid Meier’s Colonization, System Shock, TIE Fighter, WarCraft: Orcs & Humans, X-COM: UFO Defense

    All of these games are still as fun to play when they first came out, most of them have aged surprisingly well and some of them are still unsurpassed in their respective areas.

    1995:
    Dark Forces, Command & Conquer, Crusader: No Remorse, Full Throttle, Jagged Alliance, MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat, The Dig, WarCraft II: Tides of Darkness

    Quote: “Another banner year.” ;-)

    Interestingly, I also think that this Age was also due to being in a sweet spot, visually. For several years, state-of-the-art graphics were relatively stable. Starting around 1989 until about 1995, with the first big SVGA titles and a slew of “Doom clones”, Mode 13h (320×200 in 256 colours) graphics were simply the best you could do. Quote: “Graphics were at the point where games could be immersive and atmospheric, but they didn't cost a fortune to produce.” ;-)

  27. El Quia says:

    These are my favorite games:

    X-COM I, X-COM III, Monkey Island I-III, Fallout I-II, Starcraft, Master of Orion, Quest For Glory I-IV, Civilization I-II, Pizza Tycoon, Star Control II, Full Throttle, I Have no Mouth and I Must Scream, the LucasArst Indy Adventure Games, Alpha Centauri, Morrowind, Gabriel Knight I (I haven’t played the other too :( )…

    I’m sure I’m forgetting a couple of games, and I tell you: that doesn’t mean they are awesome!

    As you can see, I’m a bit old school, sometimes…

  28. Calthaer says:

    Wow. So many of the greats have already been covered here – all of my “greatest games of all time” games like Deus Ex, System Shock 2, StarCraft, etc.

    Even EverQuest has been mentioned – let’s not forget that MMOs had their beginning during this time. The games were rough, and somewhat unpolished compared to today’s fare, but just think – for the FIRST TIME you could interact with dozens of other players in a graphical environment. That in itself was magical. I’ll never play another one of those games again, but the initial wonder of logging in to those worlds is something I’ll never forget.

    One other thing to mention: emulation. Around 1996-2000, the first console emulators were coming on to the scene. This is a good ten years before Nintendo founded the Wii channel for buying classic games on a console. Suddenly the list of available games for the PC was doubled, tripled, or more. You could play all the old NES games, all the old SNES games, Genesis, MAME was getting its start. PCs were finally getting decent gamepads (from Gravis and such). ROM sites didn’t have complicated logins and crap like that, and console companies weren’t yet wise to the fact that their content was being publicly posted everywhere – so it was possible to actually find decent (albeit older) games to play. If you really enjoyed something, FuncoLand and Gamestop and other stores still actually had the games for sale, so if you enjoyed ’em you could go out and purchase the cheap older console and the game at a local store.

    And furthermore, with Windows 95 / 98, you could still run most of the old DOS games with little trouble, as long as you had a Sound Blaster compatible card – and even some of the other ones had good SB emulation. A lot of them, like X-COM: UFO Defense, were being released as Windows 9x versions so that you didn’t have to fool with memory and whatnot in DOS. Quest for Glory, Ultima, and other classic “stone age” franchises were being re-released on compilation disks. It was all the best of the “Stone Age” without the headaches.

    On top of everything I’ve just said, console games – big, system-selling ones – were actually being ported to the PC. For crying out loud – Final Fantasy VII and VIII were released for the PC. So was Metal Gear Solid. Those were huge; I can’t believe nobody’s mentioned those yet. For a brief period in time, PC gaming was EVERYTHING, and even the console companies wanted to get in on the action.

    Then you needed DOSBOX in Windows XP to run old DOS games, and PC games started to be buggy, laggy, bloated, graphics-heavy pieces of garbage that really weren’t any fun to play. The focus on graphics is one of the big killers of PC gaming. I, too, now play my Nintendo DS most of the time…when I’m not catching up on good PSOne games which I play on my PS2. Modern Flash games are also loads of fun. I really miss the Golden Age.

  29. ARJUN aggarwal says:

    Hello friends… Do you feel an overwhelming sense of nostalgia when you think about the arcade games which were immensly popular from the late 80’s to the mid 90’s ? People of my age grew up playing games like Super Mario , Street Fighter , Virtua fighter . Back then the gaming industry was at a developing stage , not that it still isnt but the quality of graphics has improved remarkably . Unfortunately I cant say the same about the storylines/plots on which most of the games are based these days . I feel that idea’s like aliens , droids , robots , zombies , First Person Shooter (FPS) , World War scenarios have been over-used . These days so many games belonging to the same genre are being dumped into the market that nearly all the ideas have become mundane/overused. Some of the questions which are going through my mind right now are : Are the developers paying special attention to the graphic quality of games and less attention to the gameplay? Is the gaming industry heading towards a new S-curve ? . However I dont want to take away credit from some new-age developers who have developed Kick-ass games ( please excuse my language , I just cudnt resist) like Halo (Bungie) , Grand Theft Auto ( Rockstar games) , Company of Heroes ( THQ) , Sims (Maxis) , Gangsters ….and list goes on and on! These games are truly unique both in terms of gameplay and graphics : the ideal combination for a gamer like me who has seen two different periods of the video-game industry. My main problem lies with the developers who dump games with a loose plot in the market . I believe that game-play is an intergral part of the gaming experience and should not be compromised for better graphic quality . Nowdays this is clearly not the case. I would like to have some feedback from you guys .What are your views on this ? Just want to initiate a healthy discussion.

    Peace

  30. Jenx says:

    Favorite games huh? Let’s see:
    Diablo 1 – 1996 (first “real” electronic game I’ve seen in my life. I fell in love the second I saw it)
    Diablo 2 – 2000 (I’m still reluctant about playing it in fear of getting addicted once more)
    Planescape: Torment – 1999
    Baldur’s Gate 2+ToB – 2000/2001 (I never got into the first game but the second one holds a very special spot in my heart)
    Icewind Dale 1/2 – 2000/2002 (I played these a lot later than they were released but I still enjoy them as a form of relaxation)
    Age of Empires 2: The Age of Kings – 1999 (Fuck your aliens and space marines, I want vikings and samurai!)
    Fallout 2 – 1998 (While I really like the first one, it’s the second one that introduced me to the Fallout franchise)
    Red Alert 2 – 2000 (Because FOR MOTHER RUSSIA!)
    System Shock 2 – 1999 (I never finished it. I probably never will. I still love it)
    Heroes of Might and Magic 3+Expansions – 1999+ (Not the best turn based strategy game, but definitely the one I’ve played the most)

    Aaaand I’m probably missing some, but those are pretty much the games I grew up with and enjoyed. Also keep in mind that I played almost all of these games several years after they were released and when I had supposedly “better” ones available. And while some people might say “oh well this is just nostalgia speaking” – I’ve replayed these games in the last few years and they are STILL as good, if not even better now. So to hell with all of the kiddies with their pimped up PCs and uber-powerful consoles! I want back my gems of gaming!

  31. jtt25c says:

    1999 – EverQuest

    How could you forget such a game changer? this introduced 3d mmorpg’s to the masses! This game is responsible for the HUGE surge in computer gaming (WoW) that we see today. Classic game and I know thousands and thousands of people share fond memories of this game.

  32. Bionic Moses says:

    What about Tyrian huh? i might have missed a post but that game is SOOOOO good. its one of them 2d airplane games were you shoot up the screen at stuff and it dies. im sure that genere has a name but i cant think of it at this time. ANWAY that game is sooooooooooooo AWSOME it was my first video game and to this day is one of my all time top games of ever. and i do own a xbox 360 and a very high end gaming rig i built (saved about 1400$) so im not out of touch or anything. Tyrian is now freeware for those who are interested. you might need to use dos-box to get it too run though =P

    but anways i gota say i have been super disapointed with computer gaming as an industry as of late. from printed system specs that are wishfull thinking at best (bioshock DOES NOT run on a 128 meg card if it chuged on min specs on my old 256)
    to the parade of games that are second rate at best. i do have to say that i like hellgate london. i recently got it used and have been playing it and i love it. its plagued by bugs becuase it was early released and they tried to force multi player, so dont get it if you cant stand trouble shooting to the Extreme. (wich is actully borderline fun for me in the same way getting dos games was fun for others)

    and lastly my arbitrary list of games wich no one cares about but will read anyway if they are reading posts here.

    Diablo 2 (SO MANY HOURS INTO THE GOD DAMN ONLINE ITS STUPID)
    starcraft (bought it late so i didnt get into it as much)
    warcraft 3 (gota love that developer level map editor)
    Cube and Saurbraten (those games are freeware Quake style shooters that are pretty fun. Saurbraten is actully Cube 2 but by other people)
    C&C generals (plague tractors LOL)
    Oblivion (i guess…..)
    Doom 2 (getting multiple kills with one shot outa the double barrel shotgun is sooo cool. or at least was XD )
    civ 2 and 3 (i dislike how the ai simply cheats in civ 3 instead of playing the game. it gets apparent if you play alot and made me quit….eventualy)
    warhammer 40k wasnt bad either but got boring a bit too fast for an rts…..
    Zeus master of olympus was realy good too. still love that game.

  33. FlakAttack says:

    Starsiege: Tribes (1998)

    This game blew my mind. Forefather of all team-based multiplayer gaming and way ahead of its time. The graphics aren’t even terrible, they just aren’t good, compared to modern gaming. They were quite amazing at the time however.

    Operation Flashpoint (2001)

    This game was a pretty good simulation of infantry, vehicle, and air combat in a sort of modern time period on a fictional island. Very cool game, very tactical and realistic. At least this one has had good follow up with Arma and the already released (in some countries) Arma 2

  34. jubuttib says:

    Most of my favorites have already been mentioned, but probably the game I spent most time playing through 1998-2004 is the original Rainbow Six (1998). The first proper tactical shooter. Pretty much the first “realistic” shooter. One mistake and bang, you’re dead.

    I’ve yet to love a game as much as I loved Rainbow Six.

  35. savegameoften says:

    Many of the games mentioned here were indeed part of the “golden age” of PC gaming. But in my opinion a new golden age has arrived…on the iPhone. After the kids are in bed, chores are done, and I have the rare 30 minutes to myself, I put in the earphones and fire up The Quest, or Underworlds, or Real Racing. If I really don’t want to use my brain at all, Hero of Sparta and Doom Resurrection can also be loads of fun to play.

  36. asdfffdsa says:

    Yes, that was the golden age of PC gaming–and, for many, gaming in general. Not only were the games unbelievably fun, but the community was huge–there was *always* something going on. Sure, I may have been a Counter-Strike nut back in those days, but I was as diversified as Thief 1/2 and Asheron’s Call (most PC gamers of that time probably didn’t even know those games existed, but I’m sure there were many even I wasn’t aware of. It was that big). Hell, even no-name modifications for Half-Life, such as “Scientist Hunt” or “Wanted,” consistently had at least 10 to 20 servers or so running.

    It’s very hard for modern gamers to understand why PC gamers of this golden age look at the current generation consoles with scorn. These platforms are quite limited downgrades from what we’re accustomed to–it’s NOT because the PC can churn out better graphics. Not only that, but 99% of current games are bland and cliched. If one looks past the dated graphics (surprisingly hard for a typical current generation console gamer), one can see the difference between the old and the new: there is a definite artistry in the older games (where the minds behind the *actual* development–the original source of the passion for creating games–were not separated from those responsible for generating ideas), whereas the new games are simply products of some shallow parameters defined by marketing teams–a very simple formula with no room for innovation.

    A note on the Old Steam to put things into perspective for more recent gamers:
    Steam really did mess up the enormous Half-Life Modification communities. The newblood may not understand this given the greatness that it is now, but Steam was an utter disaster in that time, and it should have been optional; a lot of people just stopped playing. Valve recognized the immensity that was Counter-Strike, and forced this massive community onto their Steam platform. Shortly after it secured the millions of Counter-Strike players onto this platform (so they could advertise to them), Valve simply stopped providing content updates to Counter-Strike–it became a stagnant game. Yet Counter-Strike was such a great game that only until up to about a year ago, it maintained the greatest number of players on Steam (That is, according to Valve’s *own* statistics; a supposed “elimination of bot counting” was implemented, and this is after they mysteriously stopped reporting CS 1.6 player counts for a good few months). As a result of this, Valve is widely credited with killing the greatness that was CS 1.6. If Valve had continued their content updates (giving something in return for their compulsory advertising platform), Counter-Strike would still be thriving to this day. It is very sad.

  37. Kdansky says:

    I don’t think Doom would still count as a “greatest game of all time”, because it is not playable anymore without nostalgia goggles. Yes, it was a breakthrough, but it is a horrible game compared to later titles. System Shock 2, Starcraft, Deus Ex, Half Life 1 or Unreal may not look like current games, but they are still a blast to play.

    I would add: Sacrifice (2000) and Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver (1999, Although the final one was released in 2003, and it was still quite awesome, after a mediocre (but far from bad) second title), Starsiege Tribes (1998) was incredibly good too, the first game to be playable online due to decent network code, and still the only shooter where your impulse affects the movement of your projectiles, proper physics, so to speak.

    A while ago, I made a montage for a puzzle with some of my favourite games, have it here: http://img443.imageshack.us/img443/9731/ferienquiz.jpg
    (You may use it however you see fit)

    I have also bought the Guild Wars Trilogy (released in 2005) this week. Because that might only look 10% as pretty as Aion, but it sure as hell has better gameplay during the tutorial alone than Aion during the whole game.

  38. Chris says:

    I think you mean hardware accelerated virtual machines.

  39. […] ever going to see an indie developer give us the kind of depth we saw during the beloved “PC gaming golden age,” but at least some people are getting to relive their glory days. Possibly related posts: […]

  40. Viktor says:

    I honestly feel as someone who grew up with the likes oblivion, call of duty: MW (Original), Halo combat evolved, that i honestly missed the golden era of gaming. I really wish that modern gaming industries would follow the likes of indie developers and make games that focus on the actual game play no the visual aspect. Many games feel so restricted. Modern games are just to short, lack any replay value (Yes including the likes of Skyrim, which claim to have 400+ hours however people only really can stand for about 50).

    I prey that games like Project zombiod, mine craft, Day – z (yes i know the graphics are more advanced than the previous two(and yes i know its a mod)) achieve and bring graphics back down to 16-bit/32-bit and force developers to pass on realism and go for game play. Oh finally, game developers please stop making games were the idea is to kill everything that moves for no other reason than it moves. A good story is far more important (please/thank you).

    Let’s get back to community driven, low graphics, high game play games.

  41. brianmlwa says:

    Yea, was when I first got into gaming. Still have and play the games I had since 96 or later… though a few I have to play on an XP or earlier VM (Everquest on a Windows 98 VM).

    Age of Empires (1 and 2 + Exp. Packs)
    Starcraft & Brood War Exp. Packs
    Half-Life (Most notoriously, Counter-Strike)
    Delta Force (1,2,& Black Hawk Down)
    Everquest
    Diablo 1 & 2
    TES 3: Morrowind
    Warcraft 2
    Battlefield 1942 + Exp. Packs
    Call of Duty 1 + Exp. pack (Mostly non-updated version though).
    Neverwinter Nights
    Baldurs Gate: Dark Alliance
    Command and Conquer: Red Alert
    Army Men series…

    Really kind of miss these games, most of them have almost noone playing multiplayer any more… but remember having fun for hours at a time shooting people on Delta Force or building for hours at a time on a good ol’ fashion AoE multiplayer game with 4+ People… ahh, the good ol’ days…

  42. When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added
    I get several e-mails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove people from that service?
    Thanks a lot!

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  44. Best games ever:

    1993 X-COM: UFO Defence aka UFO: Enemy Unknown aka UFO: Terran Defence.
    1993 X-Wing
    1994-5? TIE Fighter.

    And mention to Monaco Grand Prix Racing Simulator 2. It had all: virtual car with best lap previous so you could train on each circuit, saving anytime during the weekend and even during the save, a career mode where you began on Minardi (the rename, it had not the rights but it was easy to rename cars and drivers, even reskin the cars) and then would move on according to the season’s results.

    Then later came EA’s F1… which stopped saving during races and had no virtual car to train at F1’02 or F1 99-02. Recently the new F1 series doesn’t even let you save during weekend, so you’re forced to run free practices, qualification and race in a go. The result since the 99 games is that if your time is limited (or you have physical issues that prevent you from working the wheel for long) you can’t run full races and it’s run an arcade version more than a simulated season. And no career. The F1 99-02 I think had it but only between those years, if I didn’t misunderstand something about F1 2009 or 2010, its career mode lasts only three seasons. From MGPRS to F1 ’02 graphic requirements multiplied exponentially to provide only slightly improved graphics (including fully 3D cockpit as opposed to MGPRS2’s bitmap overlay) and reduced features. Therefore, for me, 1997 MGPRS2 remains as the top F1 simulator. Pity I can’t get it to run in my Windows 8.1 64-bits :_(

  45. DayFly says:

    I wouldn’t call these my favourite games, but they have yet to be mentioned here.

    Age of Wonders
    Heroes clone that I liked more than Heroes, for some reason. The series is still ongoing, but the first game resonated with me most.

    Crimson Skies
    A pulpy, dare I call it flight simulator with great voice acting. I was sold on the setting alone but the designers made effort to keep the missions unique, varied and fun.

    AquaNox
    Probably unfamiliar to most readers here. The game was only popular in Germany. Nothing too interesting in terms of mechanics but the post-apocalyptic-under-the-sea setting was unique enough for me.

    Gothic
    Again, mostly popular in Germany. The first game is by far the best in my opinion. At times I wonder if the game designers were truly aware of how perfectly the setting and mechanics fit together. An open world game in a prison colony surrounded by a magic barrier, it simultaneously gives the player complete autonomy while providing an appealing narrative.

  46. […] described as the golden age of video gaming. Computer games was another platform that had some amazing concepts. During this time, I was introduced to gaming by my cousins. Fully fleshed out stories were being […]

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  1. By Old School Gaming and Super Meat Boy « Ninja Game Den on Saturday Apr 9, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    […] ever going to see an indie developer give us the kind of depth we saw during the beloved “PC gaming golden age,” but at least some people are getting to relive their glory days. Possibly related posts: […]

  2. By Blog #6 Games Past/Present – AndrewDoesGames on Thursday Dec 1, 2016 at 6:47 pm

    […] described as the golden age of video gaming. Computer games was another platform that had some amazing concepts. During this time, I was introduced to gaming by my cousins. Fully fleshed out stories were being […]

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