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Computer game

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Roughly a week ago I came across an article in a Swedish newspaper listing the greatest computer games of all time. The sound, healthy reaction to such a list is of course to compose a new, correct version, which I have tried to do below.

Transport Tycoon Deluxe – At first glance, it doesn’t look like much, I mean what can possibly be interesting in a game where you’re supposed to transport goods from A to B? Right. This game is challenging and as the goal to earn more during your company’s life time gets higher, so does the challenge. Thinking out new complicated railway junctions and stations is surprisingly interesting even after many years of playing. Later in the game, when money is not a problem, the quest for the perfectly optimised rail network is still something I enjoy. If you want to play this game, I suggest you use the TTDPatch, which greatly enhances UI, adds some really useful features and removes some really annoying flaws in the original game.

Quake – This is a great game even disregarding it’s huge legacy and impact on the gaming industry. I’ve played the original for countless hours both in single player, multiplayer and most recently, speed runs. Including terrific modifications and conversions such as Team Fortress, Capture the Flag and Air Quake, this game is one of the greatest ever. Its simple and clear-cut interface is appealing even today and allows one to focus on the magnificent level design (DM6 will never get old!) instead of fancy graphics. I still play quake now and then, albeit not very often. The graphics of the GL version aren’t that bad either, to be honest.

Starcraft – When I was a kid, I adored Dune 2 and Warcraft, but playing them mostly in single player, they only lasted that long (Dune 2 has no multiplayer and Warcraft’s is somewhat limited, but still enjoyable). Then I encountered Starcraft, which is without any doubt whatsoever the best real-time strategy game ever. The intricate balancing between the three races, the inherent possibilities of a diversity of strategies and tactics, along with the fast paced action makes it unbeatable. There are also loads of fun custom game maps to play, which makes it nice for other things than serious competition. This game is perfect for multiplayer among friends, since various preset alliances usually guarantees fair matches.

Blockout (review) – Oh, yes, Tetris with an extra dimension to it, both figuratively and literally speaking. Blockout is a game I’ve enjoyed immensely on a number of occasions and it keeps resurfacing. It’s challenging because not only speed is required to succeed and because of the intrinsic difficulty in rotating three dimensional blocks in a well. I also enjoy this game because after a while it is good therapy in the same way as Rubik’s cube (meaning that it’s nice to do something and not being able to concentrate on anything else). Lately, I’ve been able to listen to audio books while playing, which is a bonus. Tetris is a brilliant concept, but in the long run, Blockout is so much better.

X-COM: Enemy Unknown and Terror from the Deep – Released in 1993 and 1995 respectively, this series is the ingenious blend of at least two genres. First, it’s an interesting and challenging strategic game where one has to allocate resources to fight the aliens, research looted equipment and interrogate captured prisoners, shoot down alien craft, build bases and so forth. Second, it’s a marvellous turn-based battle simulator with lots of possibilities for clever play. I think the greatness of this game lies in the interdependence of these two parts; one needs to be good at both to excel. Decisions taken on the battlefield affects strategic planning and vice versa. I keep dusting of this game and playing it again and again, year after year. I think there is no big difference between X-COM: Enemy Unknown and X-COM 2: Terror from the Deep, but the latter is a bit more dynamic, but also has more glitches, so they come out rather even. Please visit this site if you’re interested in expanding your knowledge about Terror from the Deep.

Games I considered, but that didn’t qualify for various reasons
Beneath a Steel Sky (an adventure game with a great story)
Civilization (keeps being challenging and I like the simplicity that later games lack)
Doom (scary in single player, fun in multiplayer, mostly nostalgia)
Dune 2 (the first real-time strategy game deserves mentioning)
Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall (one of the first really open role-playng games)
Half-Life (good in single player, even better as base for mods)
Myst (best soundtrack ever made)
Settlers (it’s still a fairly unique concept)
SimCity 2000 (I think everybody likes building things)
Unreal Tournament (multifaceted and long-lasting, especially on LAN)
Warcraf 2 (great both in multiplayer and single player)

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Developer: California Games
Designers: Aleksander Ustaszewski, Mirosław Zabłocki
Year: 1989

There are a few computer games I really like. I have returned to them many times because of some quality they possess that is rare to find in other games. Admittedly, I am not very interested in finding new ways of spending my time, so going back to old games does at least limit my choices a little. Also, I have no intention of buying new hardware, which rules out most games produced in the last five years or so.

Blockout was released in 1989 by California Dreams. I was five years old at the time and I am not quite sure how long it took my father to get hold of the game. I know that he played it a lot, and I know that I enjoyed watching and playing myself. Since then, I have returned to Blockout many times, the most recent time being about three weeks ago. It is a game brilliant in its simplicity, it is Tetris with one extra dimension.

On the easiest level, blocks look exactly like in Tetris, but can be rotated in three dimensions to fill a three-dimensional well, seen from above. As in Tetris, a layer vanishes when it is complete and the player acquire points accordingly. The added dimension adds a lot, however. After the initial difficulties of learning to rotate the blocks, the challenge is to be able to mentally fit pieces together as they fall down. On the medium level, the well is merely three cubes wide, three broad and ten deep. The blocks are also different, lacking some easy blocks and adding a few three-dimensional ones (normal Tetris pieces are all flat). On the hardest level, the well is bigger again, but now some really nasty blocks appear. They are Tetris blocks, but with one added cube. For instance, the piece in Tetris that looks like the movement pattern of a horse in chess, can have an extra cube anywhere on it, which makes it extremely difficult to place. Chiral pieces like that takes a while to get used to.

Blockout is really nice. It requires continuous action and concentration, which makes it excellent as a break from something else. Still, its challenge is of a kind that does not hamper listening ability, meaning that it is no problem listening to audio books while playing. The only drawback is that the game becomes a bit strange at really high speeds. The easiest set is no fun, because I start at the highest speed and then it is only a matter of hitting keys fast enough. Also, the blocks always appear in the lower left corner, so moving them to the opposite takes too much time when pieces are falling fast. The other two levels are better and I still have difficulties with the hardest one even on moderate speeds (5 out of 9). Fortunately, there exist online clones of Blockout (see below), so it does not look like I need a DOS-emulator for my laptop.

The original game
Online clone of Blockout
Another Blockout clone

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Sedan ett par dagar är jag hemma hos Johan och spelar lite datorspel. Lite är väl en rejäl underdrift, men i alla fall. Vi spelar Quake (ett), Starcraft, Freelancer och Unreal Tournament hittills. Mycket nöje. När jag kommer tillbaka blir det. Flera recensioner och annat smått och gott. Till dess: ha det så bra.

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Titel: Freelancer
Utvecklare: Digital Anvil
Utgivare: Microsoft
Utgivningsår: 2003
Recenserad: 2005-12-23

Nu har jag spelat igenom Freelancer två gånger och har även testat en del i multiplayer så jag känner att jag har en god position för att utvärdera spelet. Skådeplatsen är en avlägsen del av galaxen, långt in i framtiden i av människorna byggda kolonier. Som spelare axlar man rollen som frilansande pilot (därav namnet på spelet).

Handlingen för en runt alla kolonierna, men egentligen handlar det mest om att skaffa bättre skepp och fetare vapen. Som vanligt alltså. Huvudhandlingen är originell för att vara ett datorspel av den här typen, men annars inget speciellt. När den är avklarad har man dock bara avklarat en liten del av spelet och det finns mycket kvar att göra.

Jag tror man får ut mest om man först spelar igenom spelet i single player själv (det tar kanske 20 timmar eller så) och därefter upptäcker spelets värld i tillsammans med några kompisar på LAN eller över nätet. Det här är ett bra spel för att samarbeta i. Mycket bra till och med.

Jag saknar dock lite variation. Alla uppdrag handlar om att spränga något på ett eller annat sätt. Dessutom är världen ganska statisk, all handel är konstant och inget förändras. Det betyder att det finns listor på nätet över var allting finns. Att ens aktioner skulle påverka spelvärlden mer hade också varit bra, men det är datorspelens stora nackdel.

På det hela taget är Freelancer ett riktigt bra spel som inspirerar till mycket och får mig att längta efter vad branschen kan hosta upp om ett par år.

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Henrik tipsade mig om en sida med soundtracket till det numera antika äventyrsspelet Dune. Sedan dessa har jag läst böckerna och gillat dem skarpt. Det är en smått euforisk upplevelse att efter kanske tolv år höra musiken igen. Jag gillade spelet då, även om jag inte kunde egelska och pappa var tvungen att översätta. Jag vet inte om jag skulle gilla spelet om jag laddade hem det idag, men musiken är grym!

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Det här är musik jag alltid kommer att minnas. Vi spelade igenom Myst hela familjen tillsammans och musiken är nästan ensam det som skapar den underbara stämningen i detta fantastiska spel! Jag har använt mig av Robyn Millers mästerverk vid flera andra tillfällen, till exempel till ett scenario jag spelledde för något år sedan.

Musiken är givetvis helt instrumental och har en känsla av just mystik över sig. För mig som spelat spelet känns det som om man vandrar runt i ett mysitskt och ödsligt landskap med underliga byggnader och andra konstiga saker. Favoritbitar är Channelwood age och Mechanical age, det går helt enkelt inte att få det mer stämningsfull än dessa. Det enda tråkiga är att låtarna i sig inte är så långa, eftersom man byter miljö då och då i spelet. Jag hade kunnat betala en hel del för att få mer av den här musiken och då i längre bitar än vad den är nu.

Jag tycker verkligen att ni borde spela spelet, men eftersom det här är ett låttips, tycker jag framförallt att ni ska skaffa musiken, för den är den bästa musiken jag vet till ett datorspel.

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