Re: [stella] modern video games

Subject: Re: [stella] modern video games
From: "Roger Williams" <mer02@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 23 Oct 2001 20:45:25 -0700
> May I suggest playing some Zelda or Mario 64 instead of
> Squaresoft's latest 60-hour cutscene?

Um, it's kind of hard since I haven't bought a console since the
Colecovision (which in turn morphed into an Adam, and for
which I never bought more than about 4 carts).

> >I won't even ask how many of those modern "great" games
> >would fit in a 16K set of ROMs...
> I swear, it IS possible to use the multiple megabytes of storage
> on a CD-ROM (or cartridge) for something other than full-motion
> video.

Of course.  Where would I back up all my .MP3's without the CD
burner?  :-)  Really, though, if you actually filled up a 640 megabyte
CD with a game world rendered as efficiently as the ones in early
8-bit games, you could spend your ENTIRE LIFE playing and
not see half of it.

> One element of gameplay that's I haven't seen done well on the
> Atari 2600 is *exploration*.  You can see almost all of any Atari
> 2600 game within minutes of plugging it into your console.  Even
> in games like Adventure, the world is more like part of the
> game's rule set, which you learn quickly and get better at
> exploiting over time... change the world and you've changed the
> game substantially.

This definitely appeals to me.  Stella's games aren't very
"immersive" which is one reason I decided to try co-ordinate
conversions.  I also have some ideas for making worlds big
enough to at least take awhile to explore.  Of course, it's quite
a challenge to fit the world, the kernal, the nuts and bolts, and
the game itself in 4K.  But that's why I'm here :-)

> In Super Mario 64, the world is where the game *takes place*.
> You could swap out some of the levels for other levels, and
> it would essentially be the same game.  The point being you can
> be driven to play more not just by addictive gameplay but by
> the promise of being able to experience more content.

I realize not *all* the new games are total crap.  But it's
hard to justify buying a console when all of them you've
tried yourself are.

Actually, I played some Zelda II on a friend's Intellivision
back in that day and it was interesting enough to hold my
attention.  But it was about the only Intellivision game I
ever played that did, so I never got one.

> I didn't choose Super Mario 64 as an example at random, though.
> The simple act of making mario run and jump (and slide and dive
> and swim and tiptoe) around the castle grounds is exhilarating
> in and of itself, and the content simply adds to the
> experience.  I can't say that about any other 3d-platformer
> I've played.

The problem is that this is an art form, and few people practice
it any more.  Many of the early Atari games were very finely
tuned by having the employees play-test them, and it shows.
A good game must give the beginner a fighting chance, yet
gradually reward increasingly skillful play with new content,
extended time, scores, etc.  Many of the games I've tried either
beat you to death unless you cheat or are so limp they are
boring as hell.

What I want is a game that can be learned in 5 minutes yet
might take a lifetime to master.  Battlezone was wonderful this
way.  It was startlingly immersive (for its time) yet elegantly
simple.  A five-year-old could knock off a couple of enemies.
Yet to write your name vertically on the high scores, as I
was once known to do regularly, took tremendous skill
and understanding of the enemy's habits.  It was *just*
possible for a human to get a few hundred thousand points,
which might take 45 minutes or an hour.  And unless you
owned one the chances are you gave Atari plenty
of quarters getting to the point where you could do that.

--Roger Williams

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