Game Archeology – Zarch

As you may know if you’re a long-time reader of this blog, I like Populous. I like Populous 1, I really like Populous 2 and have a love-hate relationship with Populous: The Beginning (though with mods that made it easier to play it’s swinging back towards love).

So I was browsing Wikipedia. You know how it be.

And I ended up at the entry for Populous (again). Only this time I noticed a little sentence I hadn’t earlier.

Peter Molyneux led development, inspired by Bullfrog’s artist Glenn Corpes having drawn isometric blocks after playing David Braben’s Virus.

Virus? What the heck was Virus? I knew a lot about David Braben (co-creator of Elite, creator of Frontier and founder of Frontier Productions, which, among other things, published Roller Coaster Tycoon 3.

But I had not heard of this game.

The game named as “Virus” was actually Zarch, a game for the Acorn Archimedes. (Virus was the name of the Atari ST version). In the game, you…well, just watch the damn video.

This game was released in 1987. Braben expanded on his groundbreaking work with Elite (which was the first game to use 3D polygonal objects with hidden line removal) to move up to a fully 3D, heightfield terrain using shaded squares to represent terrain types, altered the color of squares based on how far they were from the camera to simulate lighting, and had particle effects. As the game progresses, the terrain changes as it gets corrupted by the aliens – the colors go from green to brown and red and the trees become twisted and mutated. The game also had an incredible frame rate due to the fact that the Archimedes was quite a powerful machine for its time.

(It was also very difficult to play because of its mouse-only control scheme but that’s irrelevant to my point.)

Now that I’ve seen Zarch, I think it’s clear that it was an absolute inspiration – not for Peter Molyneux, but for Glenn Corpes.

Glenn was the landscape programmer for every Bullfrog game made, from Populous all the way through Dungeon Keeper. Populous actually got its start after Glenn played Zarch, got fascinated by the landscape generation, and came up with his own isometric version. But Glenn didn’t stop there.

Here’s a screenshot of Zarch:

Zarch_screen

Now compare it to Powermonger:

maxresdefault

It’s obvious that Zarch sparked Glenn’s interest in terrain generation in general. But now I think it’s clear that Powermonger was Glenn’s attempt to both replicate and improve on Zarch in every way he could. Powermonger even used a particle system almost identical to Zarch’s!

And here I thought I knew everything about the development of these games. That’ll learn me.

Pinball Arcade

(Note to Fargoalians waiting for a Fargoal update – you will be served. Yes, you will. You just wait.)

In the meantime, I ran across this thing called Pinball Arcade.

Now, I had never been a big fan of pinball. Every time I played a pinball game it was over within moments, the balls caroming randomly off everything. I felt like I had no control and that the ball was attracted to the outlanes like they were magnetized or something. I never got it.

Then, while YouTubeing, I ran across this video of a guy absolutely owning a pinball game called The Machine: Bride of Pin*Bot.

It became clear as I watched this video that this game was complex and subtle, with many objectives to fulfill and many different ways to score. It also wasn’t nearly as random as I thought pinball games were and definitely rewarded skill.

It was also emulated, which appealed to me. Anyone reading this site should already know about emulators. Right? There’s tons of them. NES, SNES, Game Boy (Color) and Game Boy Advance, classic arcade games, the original PlayStation – all these platforms have been solved, with emulators providing experiences indistinguishable from the originals. If you’ve got a super-hot computer, you can even get near-perfect experiences with GameCube and PlayStation 2 emulators.

But unlike an electronic platform where you just emulate the CPU and memory and all the games suddenly start working, each pinball game must be emulated individually. The guys at Farsight Studios have to get a working machine (or a non-working machine and restore it to working order) and then spend months translating the machine’s internal workings, LED display and programming into their system. And of course they desire to be as accurate as possible.

This is more than emulation – it’s preservation. There are millions of working SNES machines in existence; you don’t need an emulator to play SNES games. By contrast, a very popular pinball machine would sell about five thousand units. And when all five thousand of those machines are gone – either sold for scrap or junked or just left to rust in a storage unit – then the game ceases to exist.

Unless it’s been emulated.

So I looked up Pinball Arcade and discovered that you can play it on practically any electronic device known to man. There’s a PC version (through Steam), PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, and versions for iPhone, iPod, iPad and Android devices. And they all play practically identically.

At this point, Farsight Studios has emulated almost thirty pinball machines through Pinball Arcade. They are living up to their name, doing the work of the gaming gods and making sure that these games do not die when the machines that contain them do.

You can download a version of Pinball Arcade on whatever you happen to have and it comes with a free boardTales of the Arabian Nights. You can then buy boards in two-packs or buy whole seasons of boards for a lower price.

Give it a try; it may just change your mind about pinball like it did mine.

Bundle-In-A-Box results and IT’S BEHIND YOU!

Well, the Bundle-In-A-Box is over and I was really surprised at the nice emails I got and exposure the bundle provided. Many thanks to Kyttaro Games for inviting me to be part of the bundle! And again, thanks to my long-suffering beta testers, whose efforts will not go to waste.

On another topic. did you guys know that I like reading about the history of video game development? What? You did, because I never stop talking about it?

Well then, I guess this won’t come as a surprise to you.

Once upon a time, there was a game for the venerable ZX Spectrum called R-Type. Based directly on the arcade game of the same name by Irem, R-Type is widely considered one of the best ZX Spectrum games ever made. Not only is it fun and incredibly faithful to the original arcade version, it used a clever system to prevent the color clash that plagued color ZX Spectrum games at the time. You’ll rarely find a “Top Spectrum Games List” without it.

And now, twenty-five years on, the developer has written an e-book about the game’s development. It’s Behind You, by Bob Pape, details the trials and tribulations of being a young, naive and brilliant programmer in the mid-80’s. Watch! As he makes every rookie mistake in the book during his first few years as a programmer! Wonder! As he lives like a homeless person during the game’s development! Gaze in awe! As he details the tricks he used to make the Spectrum do things it frankly shouldn’t have been capable of!

It’s Behind You is available for free in various e-book formats from Bob’s website. I highly recommend it.

Stardock and Star Control

When I initially wished that I could still be at Stardock so I could work on Star Control, I didn’t have all the facts. I didn’t know that Stardock only got the name, not any of the content, and because of this they say they’re going to “reboot” the franchise.

Um.

As every schoolchild knows, the name Star Control had been trademarked by Accolade, so when Paul Reiche III and Fred Ford left that company they couldn’t take the name with them. They did, however, retain rights to all the content of Star Control, which meant that nobody could make another game featuring the Syreen or the Melnorme or the Ur-Quan without their permission.

Which they gave to a ragtag group of programmers intent on re-creating the original game (which for a long time was available only second-hand or through nefarious means). This group of codiferous rebels produced a new version called The Ur-Quan Masters and it’s a really good version of the game – anyone who played the original will feel right at home. Except that the exploit that allowed you to sell more planetary landers than you actually had to get infinite money was removed. Bummer.

Now, Fred & Paul gave the permission to use their content because it wasn’t a commercial project. This is not the case with Stardock’s Star Control game. And Fred & Paul sold their company, Toys for Bob, to Actiblizzion back in 2005. Which means that they are still Blactivizzard employees.

So, I’m seeing a few options for Stardock here…and most of them aren’t that good.

1. License the Star Control 2 content and get Paul & Fred to consult on the project. This will give the highest chances of success but will be damn hard to pull off. Fred & Paul may not be in a position to actually license the content for commercial use (I don’t know the legalities there). And Fred & Paul almost certainly won’t be in a position to consult on the project since they work for, you know, a competing game company. But if the stars were to align in this manner I feel confident Stardock could pull off a good new game. The fact that the original developers were involved would also cause the fanbase to be more forgiving of any missteps.

2. License the content but go it alone on both gameplay and story. This would tie the game back to Star Control 2, but unless they do a great job themselves it could result in a poor game hurting the Star Control brand. This is exactly what happened with Star Control 3.

3. Do a complete reboot with completely new aliens, story and gameplay. This is the worst possible outcome; the lack of involvement of any of the previous developers and the complete break with the original Star Control storyline means that fans will judge the game as harshly as possible, so unless Stardock pulls off an XCOM, there will be significant internet backlash and they don’t need that after Elemental. Again, it would be very easy for Stardock to ruin the brand like this. Elemental was supposed to be a new version of Master of Magic, but Stardock couldn’t get the license. Imagine if they had, and the shipped version of Elemental had been called Master of Magic instead…

So, I’ve got some misgivings. But at least there’s a chance for a new good Star Control game, which is better than no chance.

Satellite Reign

The Kickstarter for Mike Diskett’s spiritual successor to Syndicate Wars, Satellite Reign, is finally up.

By the way, I love that name. It’s got a clever double meaning; first, it’s a takeoff of “Satellite Rain”, one of the most visually impressive weapons from Syndicate Wars. And second, of course, the game is about megacorporations that rule everyone by monitoring them using satellites and drones. It’s a winner.

While I enjoyed the Syndicate first-person shooter (and I know I’m apparently the only one) it will be fantastic to play a “real” Syndicate game again.

Assuming the Kickstarter succeeds. Let’s make that happen, people!

And, just in case you were wondering what Syndicate Wars was all about, here’s the video I did explaining the game.

And I just realized that Mike Diskett himself commented on that video! Squee!

AirMech

Once, long ago, there was a game. It wasn’t just any game. It was an excellent game, a forerunner, a game so far ahead of its time that most people who play its descendants have never heard its name.

That game…was Herzog Zwei for the Sega Genesis. It is considered by many to be the progenitor of the real-time strategy genre, but actually obtaining and playing a copy is quite difficult.

Now, Carbon Games, the creators of the excellent Fat Princess, have gone straight back to the source for their next game, AirMech. Because the original Herzog Zwei incorporated design elements that would later be used in games like Defense of the Ancients and Tower Defense, the design feels very fresh despite being a case of “everything old wins originality awards eventually”.

You can get into the AirMech beta pretty easily by going to the Carbon forums and posting in the “I want to be in the AirMech beta” thread. The following video should inform you why you should do so.

9-9-09

Today is the tenth anniversary of the release of the Sega Dreamcast in the United States.

In the end, I think there was one thing and one thing only that killed the Dreamcast: it didn’t play DVDs. Sony’s hype machine for the PS2 was absolutely incredible. If the Dreamcast had played DVDs it would have probably lasted until Sony’s hype wore off and people realized that the PS2’s “Emotion Engine” didn’t produce graphics significantly better than the Dreamcast’s. (Plus Shenmue II wouldn’t have had to come on four CDs.)

A lot of people don’t recall that the Dreamcast offered the first real console online multiplayer experience…unfortunately using 56k modems. Now, it’s not impossible to write online mulitplayer games that can run over a 56k modem…but it is hard, and “lag” wasn’t something console players back then were used to. Xbox Live’s success came from their willingness to explicitly state, “If you don’t have broadband, go away.”

So the poor thing was simultaneously ahead and behind its time. If it had played DVDs and been easily upgradeable to use broadband, we might still be playing it (or a backwards-compatible successor) today.

And now I’m off to play Jet Set Radio all day.

Brad Wardell

It’s been a while since I’ve done an in-depth story on a developer I admire. So let’s fix that!

Brad Wardell, as you probably know if you read this blog, is the president, founder and CEO of Stardock, a software development company that specializes in two different types of software: operating system customization software and games.

Brad’s entry into software development was almost accidental. His first serious business foray was into hardware – in 1990 he started building computers and selling them pretty much out of his house (a la Michael Dell). He called his company “Stardock Systems”. In 1992 OS/2 was released and Brad felt that he could gain a competitive advantage by preloading OS/2 onto the computers he sold. In doing so he became quite familiar with OS/2.

In 1993 he realized there could be a market for an OS/2 game. He had never programmed before, so he bought two books: Teach Yourself C in 21 Days and OS/2 Presentation Manager Programming, and using the information in just these two books, he wrote Galactic Civilizations.

As you can see, GalCiv was a bit primitive graphically. At the time, Brad only knew how to create windows and icons, so everything you see in GalCiv consists of one of these two features. But it was a critical success (and not just because it was practically the only OS/2 game at the time). It was well-designed and had some excellent AI. Now, I recall being at Origin at the time and watching GalCiv top lots of “Game of the Year” lists for 1994…a lot of us at the time couldn’t understand how Origin games had lost out to an OS/2 game that…well, looked like that.

But as good a game as it was, Brad made almost no money on it. He was ripped off by his publisher and couldn’t afford a lawyer to fight back. He learned a very valuable lesson the hard way – a lesson that almost sank Stardock.

But what the publishers couldn’t take away from him was the name Stardock on the box. While the success of GalCiv didn’t profit Brad, it did raise the profile of his company. Brad was able to profit by writing an expansion to his own game called Shipyards, which sold well enough to keep him going for a bit. IBM came to Brad hat in hand asking if Brad could create a special version of GalCiv for the IBM OS/2 game pack. Brad did, which he titled Star Emperor.

Brad had always been intrigued by the idea of customizing the OS/2 operating system, and in 1994 became convinced that an OS customization tool for OS/2 could be profitable. This lead to him teaming up with fellow OS/2 enthusiast Kurt Westerfield to release OS/2 Essentials, the software that would eventually become Object Desktop.

And Brad was also able to get the rights to the “Galactic Civilizations” name back and republish the game (with improvements) as Galactic Civilizations 2 for OS/2.

And at this point, he figured the game was over and he’d won. By twenty-four he was a millionaire and Stardock was not only selling tons of copies of OS/2 Essentials and GalCiv 2 but publishing other people’s OS/2 software as well.

And then he made his second mistake – he allowed his zealotry for OS/2 to nearly wreck his business.

IBM quietly dropped support for OS/2 in 1995, and Microsoft released Windows NT 4.0 (the one with the much more usable “Windows 95”-style interface) in 1996. Windows NT 4.0 quickly captured OS/2’s core market. There were lots of people (including some of my friends at Origin (Hi, J. Allen!)) who believed that even if IBM’s support of OS/2 was a bit spotty, the superiority of the platform plus user advocacy and support could make the platform a success.

Needless to say, it didn’t work. Soon Brad began to realize that something was wrong, but Stardock continued to release OS/2 software until 1998. This could easily have been the end of Stardock, but two things saved his company.

The first was an employee, Mike Duffy. Mike was the lead developer on Entrepreneur and decided he would write a low-level, cross-platform library that worked on both OS/2 and Windows. This enabled Stardock to finally start making the transition from OS/2 to Windows.

The second was customer loyalty. Stardock at this point had a whole bunch of customers who didn’t just buy their software – they were fans of the company. They wanted to see the company do well. So they actually bought subscriptions to Stardock’s online ObjectDesktop.Net service before it was actually ready. Because of this, while 1998 was the worst year in Stardock’s history they managed to pull through, and by 1999 they had begun to release Windows products.

By 2000 things were looking up again. Brad’s focus on desktop customization software was paying off, with WindowBlinds, ObjectDesktop and DesktopX all selling well. Stardock avoided the dot-com crash of 2001 by actually being profitable and having a business plan, and by 2002 Brad decided that the company was ready to get back into games again. The first had to be a version of the original Galactic Civilizations for Windows.

But development of GalCiv for Windows slowed when the launch of Windows XP approached. Because Windows XP had more customization features “out of the box”, Brad was concerned that people would feel they didn’t need Stardock’s customization software any longer. In fact, the exact opposite happened – Windows users who had never been exposed to desktop customization before saw it in Windows XP, experimented with it, and then turned to Stardock when they ran up against the limitations of what the built-in customization could do. Needless to say, this was a great relief for Stardock.

In 2003, Windows finally got a version of Galactic Civilizations. This edition included everything from the OS/2 versions of Galactic Civilizations, its expansions and its sequel (thus, GalCiv for Windows is equivalent to GalCiv 2 for OS/2). Plus it now looked like this!

At the same time, Stardock had been beefing up their digital content delivery system. Galactic Civilizations for Windows was available at retail and online on the same day. Retail boxes included a code that could be entered into Stardock Central, which registered the user’s copy and allowed them to download the latest version.

Stardock Central quickly expanded to allow digital delivery of any product Stardock published – and Stardock had gotten back into the business of publishing other software.

And in 2006, Stardock released Galactic Civilizations 2, and Brad briefly became the focus of the DRM debate when he stated that GalCiv 2 had no DRM and never would. This caused some criticism from DRM providers (indeed, a Starforce employee actually posted a link on their forums telling people where they could pirate GalCiv 2) but Brad’s decision does not seem to have affected GalCiv 2‘s sales, which have been excellent.

And in 2008 Stardock updated the perfectly functional but kind of hoary old Stardock Central with a flashy new version called Impulse. Impulse is quite comparable to Valve’s Steam in that it’s a system designed to allow people to buy and digitally download software from a host of different companies, but is different in that Impulse doesn’t require an internet connection simply to play games, but only when purchasing a new game or using other online features.

Brad long ago returned to millionaire status and has stayed there since. His strategy of cultivating a loyal fanbase and shipping excellent software while staying out of debt has allowed Stardock to grow into a major online presence and allowed him to overcome his missteps.

Brad has developed a rather…unique online persona. During his stint on the Poweruser.tv podcast, he effectively acted as the “comic” to host Kristin Hatcher’s “straight man”, saying and doing outrageous things simply to get her reaction.

Brad has also been at the core of several flamewars about OS customization, routinely insisting that the customer is not always right – especially when catering to certain customers would hurt his business. At one point he exclaimed in a forum post, “I’m too old and too rich for this shit.”

His political views seem to lean toward the individualist, and he has a particular hatred of taxes, seeing them as good money given to the government who will then give it to people who haven’t earned it and probably won’t deserve it.

Overall, I think Brad is a great guy who had to overcome incredible disadvantages to succeed. If I had the chance to work for Stardock I’d probably jump at it. Despite having to move to Michigan.

Dungeons of the World and the Craft of War Dragons

So. Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition has certainly raised some ire, hasn’t it?

New roleplaying game, roleplaying not included…

World of Warcraft Refit…

D&D for Dummies

This is NOT D&D!

D&D 4th Ed. is a travesty. It’s a terrible game with terrible mechanics.

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

D&D 4’s detractors tend to hammer on three points:

1. The new edition is inspired by MMORPGs, most specifically World of Warcraft.

2. The new edition doesn’t actually promote roleplaying (with some going so far as to say that it doesn’t even allow it).

3. The new edition isn’t Dungeons & Dragons.

How valid are these points?

While I haven’t had a chance to play D&D 4 yet (Hi, Tom!) I’ve read the Player’s Handbook and The Keep on the Shadowfell quite thoroughly. I’ve also listened to the complete D&D podcast where Scott Kurtz and Gabe and Tycho play D&D 4 for the first time. Gabe had never played a paper-and-pencil RPG before but is an experienced World of Warcraft player, and he was continually finding parallels between the two.

Gabe: I should have gone with “[Jim] Felmagic”.
Tycho: No, you’d get a call from Blizzard. “‘Fel‘ is our word for dark magic!”

Gabe: This reads very much like a [Final Fantasy] Tactics game.
Tycho: Doesn’t it?

Gabe: What did you give me?
Scott: I gave you a +2 against this target – so my attack gives an ally +2.
Tycho: He buffed you.
Gabe: Okay.

Gabe: I cast Arcane Missiles. I mean Magic Missile.
Tycho: Same thing.

(after several encounters in which his character is the only effectual one)
Gabe: I’m going to one-man this instance.

As an exercise, let’s compare a famous spell as it matured through the editions. Let’s use the classic first-level magic-user spell Burning Hands.

Here’s the description of Burning Hands from the first edition of the Player’s Handbook:

Burning Hands (Alteration)
Level: 1
Range: 0
Duration: 1 round
Area of Effect: Special
Components: Verbal, Somatic
Casting Time: 1 segment
Saving Throw: None

When the magic-user casts this spell, jets of searing flame shoot from his or her fingertips. Hands can only be held so as to send forth a fan-like sheet of flames, as the magic-user’s thumbs must touch each other and fingers must be spread. The burning hands send out flame jets of 3′ length in a horizontal arc of about 120″ in front of the magic-user. Any creature in the area of flames takes 1 hit point of damage for each level of experience of the spellcaster, and no saving throw is possible. Inflammable materials touched by the fire will burn, i.e. cloth, paper, parchment, thin wood, etc.

Here’s the description of the same spell from 3.5 edition:

Burning Hands
Evocation [Fire]
Level: Fire 1, Sor/Wiz 1
Components: Verbal, Somatic
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: 15 ft.
Area: Cone-shaped burst
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: Reflex half
Spell Resistance: Yes

A cone of searing flame shoots from your fingertips. Any creature in the area of the flames takes 1d4 points of fire damage per caster level (maximum 5d4). Flammable materials burn if the flames touch them. A character can extinguish burning items as a full-round action.

Sorry, but I don’t have a second-edition player’s handbook. But notice that the spell isn’t that different. The range has been increased from the first edition version and it does more damage (1d4 per caster level instead of one point per caster level) and the target now gets a saving throw. But the spell isn’t that fundamentally different.

Here’s the description from the fourth edition player’s handbook:

Burning Hands
Wizard Attack 1
A fierce burst of flame erupts from your hands and scorches nearby foes.
Encounter ✦ Arcane, Fire, Implement
Standard Action
Close blast 5
Target: Each creature in blast
Attack: Intelligence vs. Reflex
Hit: 2d6 + Intelligence modifier fire damage.

That’s a nice impenetrable description, isn’t it? It’s pretty much just a bunch of keywords. So let’s go over them.

Encounter means that the power can only be used once per a combat encounter. Arcane is the power type of the spell, so it can only be used by characters with access to arcane power. Fire is the type of damage it does and Implement means that if you have a wand, staff or orb that improves your rolls you can use it on this spell (for instance, Gabe could use his +2 Wand of Accuracy in conjunction with this spell). Standard Action means that you must have a standard action available to use it (every player gets a standard action, a minor action and a move action in a single turn). Close means that the area affected must be right next to the character. Blast 5 means that the area affected is a square five tiles on a side. The wizard then makes an Intelligence attack on all characters (friend or foe, PC or NPC) in the square, which is compared against the target character’s Reflex. Any affected character takes 2d6 + the wizard’s intelligence modifier in fire damage.

Notice how incredibly defined that description is. Notice also that it refers to tiles on a grid. D&D 4 completely integrates miniatures into the base game – it’s no longer possible to play without miniatures.

So the detractors’ first point is confirmed in my mind. The goals of the designers of D&D 4 were to make the game both easier and faster to play and they achieved that goal by studying how computer role-playing games had done just that. (I’ve no doubt that this will make Bioware‘s job easier when they make Neverwinter Nights 3.)

But does conceding point one prove points two and three? Is it such a bad thing that D&D 4 has stolen mechanics from computer RPGs? After all, computer RPGs have been stealing from D&D for thirty-five years – and I don’t mean “taking it as inspiration”. I mean directly ripping it the eff off. Practically every designer of classic RPGs says that they started by trying to program the Dungeons & Dragons experience into a computer and the entire industry progressed from there. What’s wrong with D&D finally taking some of those improvements back for itself?

I think the explicit definition of each power is what prompts comments like the “no roleplaying required” one I quoted above. Such definitions take away options from both the player and the GM.

But again, is that such a bad thing? Notice that the “sets flammable stuff on fire” part of the description for Burning Hands is gone. Why? Well, what GM hasn’t had a conversation like this?

Player: Okay, I cast Burning Hands on the enemy wizard.
DM: Okay, he takes three points of damage.
Player: And he’s on fire now, right?
DM: What? No.
Player: What?! He’s wearing cloth armor, right? He can’t wear anything else!
DM: Yeah, he’s wearing cloth armor.
Player: Well then I set him on fire! The spell description explicitly states that…

Et cetera. Another trick I’ve seen players use is to try to use Burning Hands to ignite any lanterns or flasks of oil an enemy character was carrying. The previous rule editions don’t say anything about this, which means it’s up to the GM. The only problem is, what does the GM do? Let the spell become horribly overpowered or piss off a player? This way no one gets pissed – but if the GM wants to allow the player to use the spell in a non-standard way, he still can. I can imagine a situation where a player needs to burn a rope and says he wants to use Burning Hands to do it, and the GM allows the player to do it if he can beat a target number on his attack roll and also gives up his use of Burning Hands in his next encounter. That’s the kind of flexibility that comes from both the players and the GM having the necessary imagination – and in the end, that’s the real component of roleplaying. With enough imagination and goodwill around the table, you could roleplay just with Toon’s fifty-percent rule (though I doubt my own roleplaying skills are good enough for that).

So while point one is valid, I think point two is very weak.

Which brings us to point three. Is this game Dungeons & Dragons? You’ll be casting Magic Missile on kobolds and using Great Cleave on umber hulks…is that enough? Wizards knows that the game is vulnerable on this front, which is why the first adventure they’ve released for it pays direct homage to the classic D&D adventure The Keep on the Borderlands. They also released a fourth edition version of the Forgotten Realms very quickly and are working to get Eberron upgraded, though that won’t be out until 2009.

But of course point three is all perception. Some people will say yes and some no. My opinion is that Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition is definitely Dungeons & Dragons. My only wish is that they hadn’t dropped the name “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” with the third edition…I think it would be much clearer (and inspire less ire) if 3.5 were still Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and this new edition were the new “basic” Dungeons & Dragons. As for the haters…well, I’m reminded of one day back in the early nineties when I was in an arcade watching this guy play the Dungeons & Dragons arcade game. He cast Magic Missile but died before it hit its target. He sniffed, “I thought Magic Missile never missed and instantly hit.” At which point I knew I was in the presence of snotty geek greatness.

But I’ll leave the last word to Scott Kurtz:

Scott: I guess the guys I play with at home are idiots. I am having such a good time.

While You Are Waiting…

…no, don’t fill out your registration card and send it in. Brush up on your gaming history instead!

Read about the rise and fall of Mucky Foot, successors to Bullfrog and creators of Urban Chaos and StarTopia.

You may have heard about Ion Storm‘s spectacular flameout, but if you’ve never read the original Dallas Observer article on it, you should!

And you should also read Allen Varney’s excellent (if somewhat biased) article on how EA bought and then destroyed Origin Systems.

Enjoy!