Vintage Game Club

Next stop: Hyrule

Zeldashoes Attention all Dodongo duelers and Skulltula sharpshooters. The Vintage Game Club is planning its next community playthrough, and this time we're traveling to Hyrule. That's right, folks, we're devoting lucky Game 7 to a Legend of Zelda title, and this self-confessed recovering Zelda fanboy couldn't be happier about it!

But which Zelda game? That's the question we're pondering at the VGC forum, and we'd love your input. If you think you may be interested in joining us for the playthrough, come on over and join in the conversation. We'll discuss possibilities for the remainder of this week, then we'll hold a vote like we always do to choose the game we'll play next.

In case you're not familiar with the VGC, a couple of blogger pals and I - David Carlton of malvasia bianca and Dan Bruno of Cruise Elroy - started the club nearly a year ago in hopes of creating a friendly place where members can collectively play through older games, sharing our thoughts and observations with each other as we go.

The VGC is for people who may have missed some of the classic titles gamers often refer to. It's also for people who enjoy revisiting older games to see how they hold up after all these years. Anyone who loves playing and discussing games is welcome to join in.

As I've mentioned in the past, we all have busy lives, so the club is a no-pressure environment. If you decide to start a game with us, but can't continue it, or if you post a comment but can't return to follow up, no big deal. The club is just a framework for bringing us together. Join in, drop out, come back...whatever. We're just here to have fun and broaden our knowledge and awareness of important games.

The Zelda conversation is happening here. If you'd prefer not to join the VGC but wish to toss in your 2-cents on a Zelda game, feel free to post your comment below.


Vintage Game Club: Alpha Centauri

K06pg1.jpg The Vintage Game Club begins its collective playthrough of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri this weekend, and you're welcome to join us. Released in 1999, Alpha Centauri remains one of the best strategy games ever made, affirming Sid Meier's stature among the most gifted and influential designers of his generation.

Alpha Centauri is an epic sci-fi turn-based strategy game set in the 22nd century. Meier translated and refined his Civilization-style balance of exploration, discovery, empire building and conquest, transporting the player to an alien planet full of mysteries and unique factions. You can discover over 75 technologies, develop over 60 base upgrades, and build your empire as peacefully or aggressively as you choose.

If you've never played Alpha Centauri - or if you're a veteran who'd like to play it again and discuss it with friends - we'd love for you to join us. As I've pointed out in the past, we all have busy lives, so the club requires nothing but your interest to join. If you decide to start a game with us, but can't continue it, no big deal. The club is just a framework for bringing us together. We're here to have fun and broaden our knowledge and awareness of important games.

A few details:

  • When do we start? - We begin playing this weekend, and we'll continue our forum conversation for a month. We've arrange our discussion threads to encourage newcomers to jump in and participate at any point, so if you can't begin playing right away, no problem.
  • How will it work? - We organize the forum threads to flow in a way that reflects the unfolding of the game. Alpha Centauri is tricky for us because it isn't a linear game, and every player's experience will be different. So we've tried to organize the discussion with flexibility in mind. We hope the posts will look more like a conversation and less like a series of disconnected comments. We encourage you to play at your own pace. Post daily, weekly, every once in awhile - whatever works for you.

We hope you'll join us for Alpha Centauri. All are welcome.

The Vintage Game Club


Vintage Game Club: Game 6 + Zelda news

DukesGame

The Vintage Game Club is preparing for its next collective playthrough, and we've narrowed our list to the following games:

  • Ico + Shadow of the Colossus
  • System Shock 2
  • Alpha Centauri
  • Ultima VII

You're welcome to join us and help us choose.

A couple of notes, then a Hyrulian announcement:

  1. Ico + Shadow of the Colossus is a proposed 2-game playthrough. We think it would be interesting to play these games sequentially, as companion pieces, and discuss them as such. Both games are short enough to allow for this approach.

  2. Use this thread to discuss the finalists, lobby for your favorite, berate the moderators...but do not use it to cast your vote. This thread will remain open until Thursday May 7 at 10pm EDT (-4 GMT), at which point voting will begin in earnest. Note: you must join the VGC before you can post comments or cast a vote. It's free, requires only an email address, and you will receive no spam.
Now for the Zelda news. Various Legend of Zelda titles have been suggested since we began the VGC, but we haven't chosen any of them yet, partly because we've been waiting for the arrival of Majora's Mask on the Virtual Console. Now that it's available in Europe and Japan (and apparently on the way for North America) we think it's time for the VGC to play a Zelda game.

And so, we will devote Game 7 to The Legend of Zelda, and you will decide which one we play. We look forward to the ensuing discussion/debate/firestorm/brouhaha, and we thought you might appreciate knowing where we're headed in advance. If, for some insane reason, Majora's Mask still hasn't been released in NA when we're ready for Game 7, we'll hold off until Game 8...or 9...or 10...or...???

Happy gaming!


Vintage Game Club: Chrono Trigger

Chrono2

We considered several classic Japanese games for the VGC's next joint playthrough, and the title that finally rose to the top is Chrono Trigger. Routinely listed as one of the greatest video games of all time, Chrono Trigger innovated the RPG genre and established a standard of quality few games since have matched.

In 1995, Dragon Quest creator Yuji Hori and Akira Toriyama of Dragon Ball fame joined Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of the Final Fantasy series to form the collaborative "Dream Team" that created Square's Chrono Trigger. The masterpiece that emerged takes players on a swashbuckling adventure through time, allowing them to explore the world's present, future, Middle Ages, antiquity, and even prehistory.[1]

If you've never played Chrono Trigger - or if you have, but would like to play it again and discuss it with friends - we'd love to have you join us. As I've pointed out in the past, we all have busy lives, so the club requires nothing but your interest to join. If you decide to start a game with us, but can't continue it, no big deal. The club is just a framework for bringing us together. We're here to have fun and broaden our knowledge and awareness of important games.

A few details:

  • When do we start? - This Friday, March 20. The game is available for the SNES, Playstation, and Nindendo DS. We're aware these versions aren't identical, but if you already have one on hand, there's no reason to purchase another version to play along with us.
  • How will it work? - We'll try to play together at roughly the same pace and post our thoughts as we go along. We will organize the forum threads so they flow in a way that reflects the unfolding of the game. We hope these posts will look more like a conversation and less like a series of disconnected comments. You're free to jump ahead or take your time, if you like; the thread system will allow you to play at your own pace. Post daily, weekly, every once in awhile - whatever works for you.

We hope you'll join us for Chrono Trigger. All are welcome.

The Vintage Game Club


Moving to Japan

Mario_big

That's right, we're moving to Japan. The Vintage Game Club, that is.

Since we began the club last July, we've grown to 288 members; collected over 3000 posts, and discussed 5 games...but we've yet to focus on a Japanese title. So, for our next playthrough, we're soliciting nominations for games developed in Japan, and you're invited to jump in and submit your suggestions.

We'll welcome nominations through 10pm EST this evening (apologies for the late notice). Then we'll choose a handful of finalists, take a few days to discuss them together, and hold an official vote. You'll need to join the club to submit a nomination (simple registration requiring an email address).

As I've mentioned before, we use the term "vintage" purposely because its primary definition - "Characterized by excellence, maturity, and enduring appeal" strikes us as just the right way to describe the games we play together. As far as we're concerned a vintage game can be 20 years old or 5 years old. For our purposes, it doesn't really matter.

You can submit your nominations here. Happy gaming!


Vintage Game Club: Beyond Good & Evil

BGE_ART_05 The members have spoken, and the next title up for the Vintage Game Club is Beyond Good & Evil. "For centuries, the planet Hillys has been locked in conflict with a race of relentless alien invaders. Wary of her government's promises to repel the aliens for good, a rebellious action reporter named Jade sets out to capture the truth behind the prolonged war."

As I've pointed out in the past, we all have busy lives, so the club requires nothing but your interest to join. If you decide to start a game with us, but can't continue it - or if you post a comment but can't return to follow up, no big deal. The club is just a framework for bringing us together. Join in, drop out, come back...whatever. We're here to have fun and broaden our knowledge and awareness of important games.

A few details:

  • When do we start? - Sunday, January 25. That should give everyone a chance to get their hands on the game. PC users can purchase it from Direct2Drive, Steam, and GameTap. The game is also available for Gamecube, PS2, and Xbox (not 360-compatible, unfortunately).
  • How will it work? - We'll try to play together at roughly the same pace and post our thoughts as we go along. Post daily, weekly, every once in awhile - whatever works for you. We will organize the forum threads so they flow in a way that reflects the unfolding of the game. We hope these posts will look more like a conversation and less like a series of disconnected comments.

If you've never played Beyond Good & Evil, now's the time to give it a whirl. If you've already played the game, feel free to jump in and lend a bit of your expertise to the discussion. All are welcome.

The Vintage Game Club


What game next?

Vintage pc junk2 The Vintage Game Club is accepting nominations for its 4th collective play-through. If you'd like to take advantage of the current mini-lull in new releases, why not join us for some friendly gaming and conversation? Among the many games already suggested: Resident Evil (original), Chrono Trigger, Super Mario 64, Dodonpachi, Zork, and Beyond Good and Evil. A wide-ranging assortment of possibilities to be sure!

We'll welcome nominations through 10pm EST this Sunday. Then we'll choose a handful of finalists and hold an official vote. You'll need to join the club to submit a nomination (simple registration requiring an email address).

By the way, we use the term "vintage" purposely because its primary definition - "Characterized by excellence, maturity, and enduring appeal" strikes me as just the right way to describe the games we play together. As far as we're concerned a vintage game can be 20 years old or 5 years old. For our purposes, it doesn't really matter.

You can submit your nominations here. Happy gaming!


The Oddysee begins

Abe The Vintage Game Club begins its collective play-through of Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee today. All are welcome to join us as we dive into one of the most distinctive and beautiful 2-D side-scrollers ever made.      

As usual, we'll be taking our time with this game, so feel free to jump in and join the conversation at any point. If you're interested in synchronizing your play with other members of the VGC, you'll find separate threads for each area of the game. I hope you can join us.

Click here for more information about the club and our plans for Abe's Oddysee.


Vintage Game Club - Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee

Abesoddysee The members have spoken and voted, and the next game up for the Vintage Game Club is Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee.

Selected by the fickle finger of fate, Abe, floor-waxer first class for RuptureFarms, is catapulted into a life of adventure when he overhears plans by his boss, Molluck the Glukkon, to turn Abe and his fellow Mudokons into Tasty Treats as part of a last-ditch effort to rescue Molluck's failing meat-packing empire.[1]

Abe's Oddysee is an innovative and gorgeous 2-D side-scrolling platformer like nothing seen before when it was released for the PS1 and PC in 1997. Eleven years later it remains one of the most unique and distinctive video games ever made.

As I've pointed out in the past, we all have busy lives, so the club requires nothing but your interest to join. If you decide to start a game with us, but can't continue it - or if you post a comment but can't return to follow up, no big deal. The club is just a framework for bringing us together. Join in, drop out, come back...whatever. We're just here to have fun and broaden our knowledge and awareness of important games.

A few details:

  • When do we start? - Monday, November 3. That should give everyone a chance to get their hands on the game. PC users can purchase it from Steam, and the PS1 version is available via a variety of sources such as Amazon and eBay.
  • How will it work? - We'll try to play together at roughly the same pace and post our thoughts as we go along. Post daily, weekly, every once in awhile - whatever works for you. I will try to organize the comments so they flow in a way that reflects the unfolding of the game. I hope these comments will look more like a conversation and less like a series of disconnected posts.

If you've never played Abe's Oddysee, now's the time to give it a whirl. If you've already played the game, feel free to jump in and lend a bit of your expertise to the discussion. All are welcome.

The Vintage Game Club



Vintage Game Club - the next game

Super_Mario_64_box_cover  Oddworld_abes_oddysee_front Smetroidbox

Deus Ex wraps up this week, and on behalf of my co-moderators Dan Bruno and David Carlton, I want to thank all of you who joined in the lively discussion. The VGC now has 135 members from all over the world, and our Deus Ex discussion generated 928 posts and well over 60,000 page views from members and visitors. That's what I call a conversation. :-)

So, what game next? After some discussion we agreed to choose a (mostly) non-narrative console game this time. Having played two story-heavy PC games - Grim Fandango and Deus Ex - we'd like to zero in on game mechanics and level design this time. Gamers don't often have a chance to discuss or analyze these elements, and we rarely share our personal experiences playing platformers or side-scrollers, other than to say we beat a certain level or boss.

We also want a shorter play session this time. Deus Ex has been great, but it's a long haul. Looking at the release calendar of AAA games on the way this month, we decided to go with something shorter that would lend itself to briefer play sessions.

So, with all this in mind, we tossed open the doors for suggestions, sorted through all the submissions, and narrowed the list down to a final three:

  • Super Mario 64
  • Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee
  • Super Metroid       

This is where you come in. Between now and Sunday we'll discuss these games and patiently endure the high-pressure lobbying campaigns waged by passionate advocates of each. Voting will take place from Sunday until Tuesday at 7pm EST, and we will begin playing on Monday, November 3. We hope this will give folks time to get their hands on whatever game we choose, and allow the Deus Ex players a bit of a breather. So if you're a member, come on over and join the deliberations about these three great games. 

If you're not a member and wish to join us, what's stopping you? We'd love to have you, and now would be a great time to jump in. Just hop over to our discussion forum, sign up, and you're in. If you'd prefer not to join but simply want to follow the discussion, you're welcome to do that too.

Vintage Game Club - Short list for Game 3 thread


Tooling around Deus Ex

Mustangdash_3 Playing through Deus Ex with the Vintage Game Club is like driving a sporty '66 Mustang convertible loaded with backseat drivers. Fortunately, the passengers enjoy the scenery as much as I do, and many of them are genuine Mustang aficionados, full of useful insights and helpful information. We're having a terrific conversation, and you're welcome to join us any time you like.

Going slowly and paying attention can yield benefits, especially if the game rewards such efforts. Taking my time with Deus Ex has reminded me of something I've always known about RPGs, but haven't properly examined:  no matter how much backstory or complexity or character detail the writers embed into a game like Deus Ex, most of it is purely optional. If a player chooses a run-and-gun strategy, clicking through dialogue and skipping cutscenes, he will breeze right past those elements, missing them completely. It's quite possible to play Deus Ex in this way, vaguely getting a sense of the overall story, but missing many of the defining features of the game.

This is hardly news to anyone who has played RPGs over the years, but as I've discovered playing Deus Ex this week, personal experience can bring what we already know into sharper focus. Deus Ex is chock-full of writing that adds subtlety and nuance to its characters and story. Sure, it's ham-fisted at times, and the voice-acting can be wincingly bad (as opposed to the preferable sublimely bad), but the care and devotion to storytelling evident in this game remain impressive almost a decade after its release. Blowing through it without paying attention would be like swigging a fine Pinot Noir. You could do it, but why would you want to?

(SPOILER ALERT) One forum poster ("Bus") pointed out the consequences of such a strategy, noting how the dialogue in an early section of the game humanizes members of the terrorist group NSF - but only if the player takes the time to listen:

"Commander Frase, we're pinned down in Hell's Kitchen and I'm not sure what to do... they're slaughtering us in the streets wherever they find us -- this one mech aug, he's like a giant walking tank, I saw someone pour a clip into him and it didn't even phase him. I've lost contact with Alpha and Delta teams, Yusuri and Thompkins are dead. I don't know what to do. We've holed up in a hotel. It's so different than training. Please tell me what we should do. If we leave, they'll kill us all. If we stay, we're dead. I've had to take hostages -- I know we were supposed to minimize civilian casualties, but I didn't have a choice. What can we..."

If one doesn't see that, then the NSF lose a great deal of the player's sympathy. It's interesting to think about how the potential to form an incomplete picture of a character or group is different in a video game as opposed to a movie or book. In the latter, it's actively difficult to miss any basic details without deliberately skipping over portions of the piece. Whereas with a video game, you can easily just not find that datacube. It might be hard then over time to assume that all players received the same level of information

And the remarkable thing is, the designers know this from the beginning. I realize writing for video games is very different from writing for other media, but I still find it unsettling to imagine myself creating a detailed universe of plot, characters, dialogue, and thematic elements - only to surrender them to the player whose main interest is power-leveling through to beat the game as quickly as possible.

I'm not here to tell anybody how to play and enjoy RPGs, but I'm struck by the vulnerability of game writers and designers in this process. They give away more authority and control over their work than even Hollywood screenwriters...and that's saying something!

I think Deus Ex creators Warren Spector and Harvey Smith would be pleased by the treatment their game is receiving from the VGC. It's not all sunshine and roses, of course, and several members have taken issue with aspects of the game's design. But we're sticking with our plan of going slowly, tooling around with the top down, taking in the view. Fortunately, there is much to see.


Deus Ex - away we go!

Jcdenton The Vintage Game Club begins its collective play-through of Deus Ex today. All are welcome to join us as we dive into Warren Spector and Harvey Smith's futuristic blend of RPG, FPS, and action adventure game genres (with a few other influences mixed in).

We'll be taking our time with this game, so feel free to jump in and join the conversation at any point. I'll post my thoughts on the game both here and on the VGC forums, and I'm eager to read yours as well. I hope you can join us.

Click here for more information about the club and our plans for Deus Ex.