Tuesday, August 23, 2022

1982 in Review

I feel like I can encapsulate my feelings on this year with a game I didn't cover, TSR's Dawn Patrol. A flight sim set during WWI, one which only has a deathmatch mode. Despite sounding promising, its slowness and practically non-existent graphics kill any interest I have in the game. 1982 is, to steal a tagline from Top Gear, Ambitious but rubbish. The hopes and dreams are here, but the technology just isn't.

Space Vikings
Games have managed to be proper space sims, proper flight sims, everything. And the problem is that a lot of them are nigh unplayable. Space Vikings is one of the first games I played, and it is quite possibly the first space sim as we think of them. Unfortunately, its frame rate can be measured in seconds per frame, completely unplayable. Its not difficult to see why we place the originator of these genres to later games, because all but the most dedicated are going to brush over it completely. As such, it falls upon the more easily done games, the side-scrollers and the top-down shooters.
For a lot of these, the games are simply not very interesting. It doesn't really help that this is the year that started the crash, where it was difficult to tell which games were good and which games weren't until you played them, and there were a lot of games that weren't good. I didn't really find all this too exciting, mostly just frustrating, and at times, tedious.
Time Pilot
Very little wowed me. The higher end graphics all seem focused on what people can do with wireframes and space. Space...how I've come to loathe a little bit that endless darkness. Though we are seeing in some places the beginnings of what would be the 8-bit era of sprite-based games, albeit wrapped up in an arcade shell. Sound on the other hand, has run from simple blips and bloops to early voice clips.
The cost of gaming at this point seems to have enacted a terrible gameplay effect, nearly every game leans towards the difficult side of things. To the point where you have to play the same opening level hundreds of times to get the gist of it. Wonderful if you're ten and you have five games. Awful if you're an adult and you have thousands. Its not necessarily that I don't like difficulty as much as I'd like a better difficulty curve between warm-up and incredibly difficult. I have beaten later games that match these titles difficulty, but then I had the time to play one game for a long period like that.

I would be remiss in not mentioning the endless technological issues games this year have caused me. Every time I've had to do something in BASIC I've had to frantically search the internet for whatever command I need to load something, to my immense frustration as I never manage to find the commands I'm missing. Its gotten so bad on some systems, like the TRS-80 computers, that I've effectively given up on them. This is to say nothing of bad dumps or emulators crapping out. This entry is much later than I wanted it to be simply because MAME stopped responding to any keyboard or joystick commands. If this continues there will be some interesting consequences for some games.

As I don't want to delay this any further, here are the awards for 1982.
Game of the Year: Sinistar
Well, its not really a surprise, but Sinistar was one of the few games that really made its arcade setting work. Instead of being some happy-go-lucky setting about something or another, Sinistar is about you fighting against an unstoppable force that has effectively already taken over the universe. Desperately trying to fight off the endless hordes of smaller ships that make up Sinistar's legions, you mine crystals to make the tools you need to defeat him. Its very often, in the heat of a desperate battle just reaching a handful of crystals to hear that dreaded sound, RUN. Its amazing what this game can do with voice sounds so simple.
Underdog of the Year: Night Stalker
A big piece of nostalgia for me, and one of the earliest home-exclusive twin stick shooters. (for a lack of a better term) Despite having a few mechanics that would feel tedious in other titles, like a constant background noise and a one shot limit on the player, Night Stalker somehow makes it work. The gradually growing hordes of robots, the supposedly safe room in the middle.
Technological Advancement of the Year: Wayout
As I said above, I've often encountered predecessors of genres that lacked in every way imaginable, be it speed or quality. But Wayout's use of a Wolfenstein-style floor layout on a system that rarely astonishes was something of a surprise. Oh, the game using it as a simple maze game without any real combat is hardly impressive, but to see an idea executed well, that is at a reasonable speed, years ahead of time is sometime I so rarely get to see. We even get one enemy wandering around. Considering that games for years afterwards would struggle to reach a double digit framerate, this feels like something special, especially since it was originally released on Atari computers, a platform long since forgotten.
A game I played so long ago I didn't even bother cropping out the sidebar
Worst of the Year: Submarine Commander (Apple II)
There were many games that were incompetent this year. And there were many games that were unplayable. But few that displayed the gross incompetence of Submarine Commander on Apple II, not to be confused with the generic shooting gallery that was the Atari 2600 game. Its not often that you play a game where it seems impossible to ever find another ship, but somehow Submarine Commander managed to do so on top of having an awful control scheme.

I can't say I have too much else to say about the year. Perhaps I've made a mistake in playing all these games. I don't really feel there's much exciting things to talk about, or even awful things. In the end I had an average of 10 points, not accounting for Black Widow. Despite having a rule stating I'm free to ignore obvious trash, I still had an average of 10 points. That and the highest rated game, a 20, are up from 1981, but its not exactly an exciting number, is it? I know that harping on about how awful games are is not a fun thing to read about, but I am supposed to be partially doing this for fun.

Now comes for a different part of the year in review, where I expound upon games fitting three categories. Obviously good games, games of historical merit, and my personal favorites. Shamelessly stolen from the way Jason Dyer over at Renga in Blue does it. Good games are titles like Doom, historical games are important or interesting in historical context, but not necessarily fun outside of that context, and ones I liked, but might not be your cup of tea. Just went ahead and added games from previously done years.

Good Games:

Well, years are early yet.

Historical Games:
Asteroids (1979)
Berzerk (1980)
Castle Wolfenstein (1981)
Defender (1981)
Robotron 2084 (1982)
Wayout (1982)

I know I didn't blog about Asteroids, but that's not by accident, I don't have anything worthwhile to say about it. I've played it, or at least a clone of it, at some point or another. It is of course, important and basically the first game I think of as a shooter. (there are earlier ones, not the point) I don't feel like criticizing it is very fair, its like criticizing the person who made the first written language for having a poor grasp of grammar.

Personal Favorites:
Bosconian (1981)
Night Stalker (1982)
Sinistar (1982)

I didn't add Tempest, because I can't really see myself playing that again, but I think I might just play Bosconian again. Interestingly, both games I really liked this year have horror elements to them.

The year ahead, 1983, consists of 87 games, though I've already started on things. Which sounds like a lot, but keep in mind when I began writing this summary, around Gravitar, there were 96. I might just be able to finish this year in under a year's time. I don't hold any illusions that I'll ever reach today or even really mind, but I am interested in reaching the '90s.
As will be usual from now on, if you happen to know of any games that fit my requirements and I missed, feel free to suggest them to me. I can only uncover so much.
I also plan on redoing some of the games I played early in my blog. This is going to be more related to titles from later years, as I don't think I'm going to replay any 1983 games.

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