Well, here we are in beautiful Estes Park, Colorado again. We drove out on Tuesday (which was a gorgeous day), then enjoyed our first day here yesterday, which was even better. Bright sunshine, skies as blue as azure, and temps around 80. Dad and I tackled the Estes Cone hike in the afternoon. The 3.2-mile hike is touted as “moderate-to-strenuous”, but really should be classed as “not too bad until the last three quarters of a mile, then it’s more suited to bighorn sheep.” We’ve talked about doing the climb to Chasm Lake (which shares the first half mile of the Estes Cone trail), but we’ll have to see. This morning it was up to Bear Lake and Nymph Lake. This afternoon?…relaxation, dinner, and a trip up to the Y-Camp.
I don’t talk about computer games a whole lot, but that’s not because I don’t like them. On the contrary, there are several that I enjoy very much. But most of them are, by today’s standards, ancient relics. I’ve found that many of the newer games either aren’t of a genre that really interests me, or they’re just not very good.
I’ve spoken about Falcon 4.0 in the past, and it’s one of my all-time favorites. It was released in 1998, which makes it about 1,000 years old in computer years. But no one has produced a flight simulator that even remotely approaches it…do companies even attempt to build games like Falcon anymore? I doubt it.
Operation Flashpoint is another. Bohemia Interactive’s first-person shooter was released in 2001, but I still play it and I still love it. The graphics, AI, and realism may have been eclipsed by the subsequent Armed Assault (and Armed Assault II), but Flashpoint gets the most “gunsight” time.
I purchased Mobil One Championship Rally in early 2001 and proceeded to wear out a pair of Act Labs Force RS steering wheels on it. It was the premier rally simulator until Richard Burns Rally was released in 2004…which I still play.
Blizzard’s Diablo series gets regular play time and it’s been around for more than a decade, with its 3rd installment (Diablo III) due in the near future.
So as you can see, I sweat to the oldies. But I haven’t mentioned the oldest game I still play, and it’s the subject of Today’s History Lesson.
Designed and built by game guru Chris Taylor (then with Cavedog Software), Total Annihilation was released to U.S. gamers on September 30, 1997. The premise of the game is pretty simple. The Core developed a way to transfer human conciousness into machines and mandated that all humans do this. The Arm is a group of people who refuse to follow the Core’s demands. And for 4,000 years, the two factions have been fighting to destroy the other…hence Total Annihilation. You pick a side, build armies, and play the game out to complete victory…pretty straightforward.
But in 1997, the game was far ahead of its time. It featured 3-D terrain, required careful resource management, and offered tremendous flexibility in how you played it. If you had an Internet connection (not necessarily a given back then), you could play against other players online.
But easily the biggest feature of the game was its extensibility. Intrepid gamers could, with moderate scripting and graphics ability, generate their own set of units which could be added to the game. And hundreds were built over the years, and continue to be built even today, long after the game’s time has come and gone.
I’ve never played it online and I’ve never built or added a unit of my own, but I have immensely enjoyed playing the single player campaigns that came out of the box. I added the “Core Contigency” pack, which gave a continuing storyline from the original. It also added “The Krogoth Encounter”, the single-most difficult mission created by Cavedog and one that I messed with for 10 years before finally conquering in April of 2007.
Total Annihilation’s incredible success meant that it took Chris Taylor nearly 10 years to come up with Supreme Commander, the “spiritual successor” to the original. It has very much the same feel as its ancestor, though the graphics, sound, and immersion level are all far-and-away better.
But for pure strategic gameplay, there is no better solution than Total Annihilation. It’s the first game I install when I replace my machines, and I will play it until computers will no longer play it.
Recommended Playing: Total Annihilation – Nearly impossible to find, but if you ever locate a copy…