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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » Armchair Arcade - Matt Barton Tells What He Would Like to See in Old School Rpgs

Default Armchair Arcade - Matt Barton Tells What He Would Like to See in Old School Rpgs

October 23rd, 2012, 22:16
Matt Barton, famous among other things for his Matt Chats, has written an editorial at Armchair Arcade on what he wants to see in an old school rpg. A snip:
A huge gameworld bristling with infinitely nerdy possibilities. One of my fondest memories of both Pool of Radiance was the expansiveness of the gameworld. It wasn't just that it was big; it was diverse and full of surprises. You *wanted* to go out and explore it, not because of a silly ass achievement—we didn't need that childish crap back then—but because the writers and artists put some real effort into making these places look and feel interesting. Do you remember Sokal Keep in Pool of Radiance? How about Koto's Well? The fact that we can remember these places after nearly 25 years ought to tell you something. I also liked the surprises you had, for instance, when you entered the Great Library and fought a specter. That little nasty was located in the midst of the slums, where you'd been battling a bunch of low level stuff. Whoops!
More information.
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October 23rd, 2012, 22:16
Do you remember Sokal Keep in Pool of Radiance? How about Koto's Well?
Hell yes I do! Some of my favorite places in CRPGs ever.

Was there something special about those zones that's mostly lacking in today's games? Or were they just some of my very first CRPG experiences that have stuck in my memory so well. The map design wasn't anything special. Was it the anticipation and exploration? Perhaps it was from a technical and writing limitation of the time but I had no idea what I'd find in those zones. And similar to a good book, the rudimentary graphics allowed me to paint my own picture of what it looked like and that's much more memorable to me than an artist's vision of what I should see I guess.

I'm not familiar with this Barton fellow but based on his writing, unapologetic tone and nostalgia I think we'd get along just fine.

I'm not quite as hot on paper notes as he is though, I enjoy having a clean desk and playing in the dark so a pen and paper requirement bothers me. I understand the gameplay mechanic he's nostalgic for there but I think it can be done just as well in-game as on paper. And auto-mapping is the greatest thing ever. I graphed out Valjevo Castle to find the hidden room to finish the game and I'd be ok with never having to use graph paper maps again.
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October 23rd, 2012, 22:53
Some reasonable requests (an economy that isn't pointless, reasons to explore) mixed in with random terrible ideas and petulance. When did being an RPG lover start meaning OCD and utterly selfish about it?
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October 23rd, 2012, 23:19
Originally Posted by moonmonster View Post
When did being an RPG lover start meaning OCD and utterly selfish about it?
Sometime in the 80s?
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October 24th, 2012, 00:06
That was a good, funny read with some decent ideas - though a little extreme in places. I think he's exaggerating a little bit to make a point.

I totally agree on the loot / economy subject (which also ties into the power progression issue). In today's games magic items aren't special anymore, since we get so many of them all the time. Back in the old days of early PnP D&D and old CRPGs it was really something just to get a +1 sword.
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October 24th, 2012, 00:55
Originally Posted by Myrkrel View Post
That was a good, funny read with some decent ideas - though a little extreme in places. I think he's exaggerating a little bit to make a point.

I totally agree on the loot / economy subject (which also ties into the power progression issue). In today's games magic items aren't special anymore, since we get so many of them all the time. Back in the old days of early PnP D&D and old CRPGs it was really something just to get a +1 sword.
Same with MMOs. I remember when I played Everquest (1), it would be like a month (and about 20 levels) before I could get a magic weapon, and it was magic in that it was 'magic' but had no stats, only good so you could hit creatures that were immune to normal weapons. Nowadays, you create your character and already have a +2 to everything trinket in your backpack, and the first old lady you help by killing 5 rats gives you a +5 Leather armor
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October 24th, 2012, 01:37
Originally Posted by wolfing View Post
Same with MMOs. I remember when I played Everquest (1), it would be like a month (and about 20 levels) before I could get a magic weapon, and it was magic in that it was 'magic' but had no stats, only good so you could hit creatures that were immune to normal weapons. Nowadays, you create your character and already have a +2 to everything trinket in your backpack, and the first old lady you help by killing 5 rats gives you a +5 Leather armor
When I dm rpg(not that I have done that lately due to time) I like to run low magic games, where you have to work to get that magic item. I cannot stand +1 and +2 everywhere.

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October 24th, 2012, 01:39
Funny how nostalgia makes an old game seem good. When I went back and replayed PoR recently, well… it wasn't all that great. That big game world waiting to be explored was mostly empty space. Inventory and spell preparation were laborious at best. The nicest aspect of those Gold Box Games was the tactical feel of the turn-based combat. About the only cRPG games since that have come close are ToEE and Fallout.
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October 24th, 2012, 02:04
I'm getting tired of seeing these editorials by self-appointed "old school" gamers who can't talk about past games without maligning modern games. I played the games back then and enjoyed them because that was all there was. They weren't some pinnacle of game craftsmanship. The developers back then did their best with the tools of the day. Just as talented people make games today, and I know that in the future, even better games await.
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October 24th, 2012, 02:20
Great point Kobu. That type of mindset happens in all types of art and entertainment. Movies, books, games, music, you name it, there's people who think it was better in the past and the modern stuff sucks .

I'm just happy that I get to experience these games in this era of gaming, where graphics are through the roof and gameplay is as good as ever. I can only imagine what the future of gaming looks like. Some real sick stuff is going to be coming I'm sure.
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October 24th, 2012, 03:10
Originally Posted by rjshae View Post
Funny how nostalgia makes an old game seem good. When I went back and replayed PoR recently, well… it wasn't all that great. That big game world waiting to be explored was mostly empty space. Inventory and spell preparation were laborious at best. The nicest aspect of those Gold Box Games was the tactical feel of the turn-based combat. About the only cRPG games since that have come close are ToEE and Fallout.
I agree about the nostalgia. I don't enjoy playing old games because they are so tough to play just in terms of interface. I prefer an interface which is as easy to use as possible, including tutorials, even to the point of spoon feeding me. On the other hand, the game itself should not spoon feed me at all but unfortunately many of them require little thought or paying attention.
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October 24th, 2012, 04:56
Originally Posted by Kobu View Post
I'm getting tired of seeing these editorials by self-appointed "old school" gamers who can't talk about past games without maligning modern games. I played the games back then and enjoyed them because that was all there was. They weren't some pinnacle of game craftsmanship. The developers back then did their best with the tools of the day. Just as talented people make games today, and I know that in the future, even better games await.
I agree to an extent with you but there are things that they don't do now that they did then which wasn't because of the tools and technical limitations. One is the lack of turn-based combat in modern RPGs. Turn-based combat brings much more depth to combat then any real-time system could ever hope to achieve. I don't mind real-time combat systems but I would definitely prefer a turn-based system.
Last edited by guenthar; October 24th, 2012 at 11:04.
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October 24th, 2012, 07:58
I've had no respect to Matt Barton since he was one of the first ones to jump on the bandwagon to point and laugh at people who didn't like the ME3 ending, because supposedly "it wasn't happy enough". With caps.
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October 24th, 2012, 10:15
Pool of Radiance is one of my favorite games of all time, and is definitely in my top 3 of CRPGs.

Also, I have to agree with his comment about achievements. I can't express how I despise that kind of utterly shallow feature, designed to do nothing but extend life through minimal development effort - taking advantage of natural OCD tendencies in most gamers.

It has saturated modern gaming and is much more detrimental to the art than most people seem to realise.
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October 24th, 2012, 11:05
Originally Posted by Kobu View Post
I'm getting tired of seeing these editorials by self-appointed "old school" gamers who can't talk about past games without maligning modern games. I played the games back then and enjoyed them because that was all there was. They weren't some pinnacle of game craftsmanship. The developers back then did their best with the tools of the day. Just as talented people make games today, and I know that in the future, even better games await.
Bullshit. Games have become massively popular since then. When most of us started to play computer games, even using the computer required highly above the average IQ. We all were nerds and games were created by fellow nerds, targeted to please us.
Now when the industry grew much bigger, everyone can use a computer, mainstream games are designed by business men and targeted at average Joe.
Of course they are worse - for (some of) us.
Engines are better and UIs are extremely well polished now, but so is the game-play: no hard parts requiring thinking, no lasting decisions, just seamless flow, designed to be "enjoyed" by as many as possible; not to provide any level of challenge or punishment for wrong actions, because that would lead to frustration among simpler and lower sales.

This is not only classic "back in the day, the grass was greener" rant - the industry is changing rapidly, and so do its goals - so the resulting product is … very different, if nothing else.
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October 24th, 2012, 11:11
While I agree that games were often a lot more demanding in the past, I strongly disagree it's related to IQ.

It's about interest and level of investment. Casual gamers or "non-nerds" are not necessarily less intelligent - they're simply not as interested or inclined to play games at the same level.

It's exactly the same for every other hobby/interest out there. Which is why I don't know shit about, say, cars and how to fix them - even though I have a pretty high IQ.

I won't deny that there can be a correlation between "bookish" interests and higher average levels of IQ - but it's very far from clear-cut.
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October 24th, 2012, 11:20
OK, I stand corrected.
Can't jump to conclusions about someone's mental abilities just because of lower level of his dedication.
(but as hinted by you, maybe we could crawl there )
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October 24th, 2012, 11:21
I guess I could greenlight a slow crawl.

If only to appear smarter
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October 24th, 2012, 13:45
Originally Posted by LuckyCarbon View Post
I'm not familiar with this Barton fellow but based on his writing, unapologetic tone and nostalgia I think we'd get along just fine.
You don't know him, really? I thought the chap was extremely well known in the RPG community in the light of the fact that he's practically the only person that has really attempted to write a history of computer role-playing games.
The guy gets my immediate respect for even attempting it.

http://www.amazon.com/Dungeons-Deskt…/dp/1568814119

I wrote a review of the book a couple of years ago when I bought it from Fishpond. Just for the sake of it and perhaps others who are curious, I'll post it here:

Dungeons and Desktops

This is a fun little introductory history into a beloved genre for both the casual and hardcore fan of the computer role playing game. It is a relatively new field for history in an industry that is constantly growing and evolving. The writing contains reviews on the hidden gaming gems almost lost to obscurity and the essential influential works that have helped develop the diversely complex and hybridised genre as it exists today. Whilst the content is wonderful and deep nostalgic value can be had from simply reading the description of the features of some of the games, the style does somewhat start to resemble compiled mobygames summaries after awhile and doesn't quite explore the human side of the development of the games in as much detail as this reviewer would have liked for it to be a considered an adequate history from a critical or academic viewpoint. The history requires more fleshing out, more key stories and quotes from the people who have made these brilliant games possible. This kind of research would also have enlivened the writing with a stronger vivid coherence and insightful immediacy, rather than merely the collation of descriptive summaries that it can seem to resemble. Perhaps a second edition is not out of the question and these kinds of issues can be addressed. Regardless, the book was true pleasure to read over the summer and provides an encyclopedic study of a genre that is loved worldwide. A solid addition to any serious gamer or RPG fan's shelf!

Also, as an aside it's Kuto's Well….not Koto's Well.

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You've a goodly way to go.
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October 25th, 2012, 11:54
I also own the book, and didn't think too highly of it.
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