Feature Article

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Full-length feature articles.
Matt Barton's picture

What's a CRPG? Some Thoughts on CRPG Genres

As you well know, I've been doing quite a bit of research into the CRPG, particularly the early years of their development. I just finished my "Golden Age" article that covers the years between 1985 and 1993, and I've been thinking more about what makes a "CRPG" a "CRPG," and how different developers have modified the concept over the years.

Matt Barton's picture

Game Demos: Then and Now

One of the many aspects of gaming culture that tends to get ignored by the majority of critics is the game demo. No, I'm not talking about the "produkts" of the "demoscene" groups, but rather those programs that purport to offer users a "trial sample" of a commercial title. Who cares? Well, game demos have played (and continue to play) an intriguing and potentially vital role in the game industry--they expose gamers to new games, help sell game magazines, and might eventually become more important than the "full versions" they represent. Although I'm not prepared here to offer a full history of the phenemonon, I would like to mention a few important developments and hopefully raise some issues for discussion.

Matt Barton's picture

Upcoming Features on Armchair Arcade

Greetings, Armchair Arcaders! A few weeks ago I announced that something big was about to hit the 'cade. Did you think I was lying? Well, you didn't after I delivered with The Early History of CRPGs, the first of a 3-part series. Well, the article was so over-the-top that commercial site GamaSutra bought the next two installments! But don't sweat it--after they've debuted and remained on that site for two weeks, I'll be publishing them here on Armchair Arcade for all our loyal fans to enjoy on their favorite site. In the meantime, I wanted to let you in on a little secret--I'm planning to give the same treatment to another of my favorite genres, the graphical adventure game (i.e., the "GAG"). However, it's no GAG that this article will become THE article on the subject, starting off with such venerable old classics like Mystery House, The Hobbit, and Time Zone. That's right, I'm going to write the history of this fascinating genre! Monkey Island, Sam and Max, Space Quest, Myst--are you quivering yet? We'll wrap up the first installment with the debut of the King's Quest series in 1983, the game that really got the GAG ball rolling.

Bill Loguidice's picture

Feature Article: Defining Past and Present Game Genres


Why past and present?  Certain game types, while still alive through the efforts of thousands of active hobby programmers, are no longer available in mainstream retail outlets and thus don’t knowingly exist to large portions of the game playing public.  Therefore, described in alphabetical order is what has been and what is still available.  Keep in mind, however, that one of the beauties of gaming is that many games don’t fit neatly into one specific category.  When example software titles are listed, only the publisher or developer is noted in parentheses, along with one of the systems or platforms the game appeared on.

Bill Loguidice's picture

Feature Article: Defining Home Videogame, Computer and Handheld Eras


What is often lacking in casual discussion of eras or time periods when certain systems or types of technology dominated is an agreed upon definition of what these really encompassed.  Below is one attempt at defining the significance of eras in the key classifications of home videogames, computers

Matt Barton's picture

The History of Computer Role-Playing Games Part I: The Early Years (1980-1983)

Welcome, brave adventurer, to the first of my in-depth feature articles exploring the history of our favorite computer game genre: The Computer Role-Playing Game, or the CRPG. For many avid gamers, the CRPG is the perfect storm of gameplay, story, and strategy. Whether we're talking about a randomized "dungeon crawler" like Rogue or a story-driven game like Betrayal in Krondor, a click-fest like Diablo or a stat-crunching Pool of Radiance, the CRPG has always enjoyed a tremendous appeal. Even today, when the first-person shooter and sports games seem to have crushed all opposition, everyday millions of players login to World of Warcraft, and each new installment in the Zelda series sends ripples throughout the entire game industry. Whether acknowledged or not, the CRPG will always play a major role in computer and console gaming. The CRPG is the spine of the electronic gaming industry--and it's not hard to see why. You just can't have more fun with a computer or a console than when you're engrossed in a well-crafted CRPG. But where did the CRPG come from? From what deep, dank dungeon did they crawl? How has the genre evolved into the amazing games we enjoy today? If you've ever wondered about these and other CRPG-related questions, of if you just like reading the very best writing you can find on the net about gaming--then grab a mug of your best ale and prepare to read an article only an author of Armchair Arcade would ever dare to draft!

Matt Barton's picture

Reading Comics on Your Computer?

Did you know that you can easily download and view comic books and graphic novels on your computer? In this piece, I want to explore the "underground" that has formed around reading comics on your PC, and discuss some of the new software that's making this much easier than before. While there will never be a substitute for collecting and reading printed comic books, the digitized equivalent has gotten much better. If you've ever dreamed of being able to read ALL the comics in the Amazing Spiderman series, for instance, now you can--and without spending tens of thousands of dollars to do it! But just how fun is to read a comic on your computer? And what about those pesky copyright issues?

Matt Barton's picture

The Return of the Coin-Op?: GameTap and Xbox Live Arcade

To the average Armchair Arcader, it's a self-evident truth that classic old games like Joust, Galaga, and Frogger are just as fun to play (if not more so) as the latest "AAA Title." The popularity of retrogaming as a whole has recently surged in both the PC and console markets, and more and more people are discovering (or re-discovering) the joys of classic games. However, as any child of the 80s knows, a big part of the thrill associated with retrogaming isn't just the games, but rather the competitive atmosphere of the arcade. In these dimly lit dens of digital delinquency, a generation honed their hand-eye coordination in exhilerating coin-op competition. These deftly-wristed heroes fought for personal glory--specifically, the glory of entering their initials into the high score tables kept by the arcade machines. It's certainly no coincidence that the arcade machines one still finds alongside pool tables and dartboards in smoky taverns are classics like Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga: These games are designed to be played in social environments.

Bleeps and Bloops: An Introduction to Videogame Music

Download Mat's podcast here.

NES: R-O-C-K in the N-E-S? For many gamers, the NES was their first exposure to quality video game music.NES: R-O-C-K in the N-E-S? For many gamers, the NES was their first exposure to quality video game music.
Video game music (VGM) has come a long way from its bleeps and bloops of yore. Early arcade games had brief snatches of music, but no real memorable melodies. Out of the early home video game systems, the first real mainstream console to feature consistently memorable video game music scores was the Nintendo Entertainment System. While some view the old-school chiptune sound of the NES era as childish and simplistic, they would be greatly mistaken-- because of the limited range of electronic "instruments" available, these compositions featured truly unique melodies combined with a stylish chunky electronic synth to create a sound many enjoy.

Matt Barton's picture

Backwards Compatibility in Hindsight

Backwards compatibility is a complicated, multi-faceted problem. The issues are different for players, developers, and engineers. Each has his or her own reasons to wish to extend or shorten the longevity of software designed for the previous generation’s hardware. Ultimately, though, backwards compatibility is a bad short-term solution to a big long-term problem. It’s hedging the bet on a new platform—and it lowers the stakes and thus the potential winnings offered by that platform. While there are certainly some situations where backwards compatibility is arguably very necessary, it quickly becomes a self-defeating activity. A nice, clean break with the last generation’s hardware and system software improves the odds that the new platform really will be something special. Of course, it could also end up six months later as the most expensive doorstop you’ve ever owned, but in the long term, it’s worth the risk—anything else stifles progress and limits the horizon for future gaming. If we want to move beyond present technology, we’ve got to be willing to take those risks.

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