What game has spoiled you for other games? In other words, what’s the one (or two) games that you have severe nostalgia for that color your outlook on other similar (or dissimilar) games? Could be MMO, console, PC, RPG, etc.
This one is legitimately difficult for me to answer. (Pssst…World of Warcraft!) No, thank you. At this point that game is the obnoxious cousin that comes in to the restaurant I’m dining at with my honey bun, sits down at my table uninvited, and licks all the breadsticks. You’re not allowed to enjoy anything else! Mine! All mine! Shush, Legion.
I think Belghast might have a point in marking Wrath of the Lich King as the best expansion to date. I have long been of the opinion that The Burning Crusade was that sweet spot between poor itemization plus pigeonholed class roles and heirloom-driven, achievement-generating AoE spam. Come to think of it, I have more memories from WotLK than from any other expansion. Gosh, I loved my bubbles.
No, not this time, Arthas. Let me remove the Metroid from my brain and talk about other things for a while. I’m going to talk about my seminal experiences with First Person Shooters, a type of game that I no longer play. You could say that I was never really good at them; I would say that I could have become fairly decent at them, given enough time and motivation, but that I lacked the desire to do so. This was, in large part, due to the fact that the skilled players whom I encountered online were so ridiculously good at murdering other people that it was downright intimidating.
It was the simplicity of Quake 2 that spoiled everything that came after it for me. I became comfortable with the range of weapons it had to offer: hand grenades for humiliating others who were too slow to avoid them, the grenade launcher for popping happiness in a bottle straight into the faces of unprepared victims, the hyperblaster for melting people, the chaingun for tearing them up, the shotgun for blasting them, the rocket launcher for blowing them sky high, and the railgun for straight up instagibbing. Were there others? Perhaps the blaster. I might be missing one or two. Nobody I knew ever took the BFG seriously. There was even one server that would instagib you the millisecond you tried to fire it. Highly appropriate, if I do say so myself.
Quake 2 was a game that would run on my toaster in software mode and later in high fidelity OpenGL when I could afford an upgrade. I never really cared about the whole space marine aspect of it. What I cared about was the combat. Run, jump, blast, die, repeat. I played through the maps endlessly, exploring every little nook and cranny. I would watch videos of other people doing the same and try to emulate their techniques. Jumping was an art form, as was rocket jumping. I plodded along in the single-player mission well enough. I defeated the end boss and walked through the ID gallery. Victory.
It was around this time that I discovered deathmatch.
From that point forward, nothing else in the world existed. I played every stock and custom DM map I could find. I downloaded every bot available and compared their performance levels. I believe I eventually settled on Eraser Bots as my computer-controlled opponents of choice – they were one of the few variants that had sensible map pathing and truly variable difficulty settings (far too often other bots were frustratingly binary in terms of difficulty: you could choose between being one-shotted by a railgun as soon as you were within a bot’s line of sight or blasting them to smithereens while they ignored you).
When I felt that I was sufficiently skilled against AI opponents, I ventured into the world of online deathmatch. There was a program that I used to find servers. I’d click the one I wanted and a voice would say something like, “Let’s get it on with a game!” I learned to fear that voice, for it typically heralded my utter destruction at the hands of other players.
It wasn’t entirely my fault, though. Sure, there were some things I needed to learn how to do, such as making the mid-air arc jump from the top of the yellow armor boxes to the megahealth on q2dm1. There was a more difficult jump that would allow you to go straight from the path leading out to the water directly onto the raised platform to the right of it that had armor shards; normally, you’d have to either walk on the ledge or jump-step your way up from the ground, both of which exposed you to shots from at least four different locations. Never did master that one.
No, what got me was my ping. I was an HPB: a High Ping Bastard. The LPBs enjoyed weapons that fired when they pressed their buttons and projectiles that went where they were aimed. On my phone line, my ping usually ranged from 250 to 350 milliseconds or more. This meant having to engage in serious amounts of leading and prediction. I could railgun a moving target with a known, fixed trajectory; it was the non-tunnel vision opponents who were my undoing. This did work to my advantage sometimes, as other players would have difficulty hitting me due to the fact that I wasn’t where their client said I was. Sometimes. Most of the time it gave them the benefit of the doubt and I would suddenly be dead. I got quite used to this.
I later discovered and played Capture the Flag. The stock variant was rather uninspiring. Loki’s Minions CTF added a plethora of interesting features and became my go-to game of choice for quite some time. In a bit of foreshadowing with regard to my future modus operandi in MMOs, my underlying objective was to become good enough to be accepted into a clan that played competitive CTF matches. So I trained for it. I watched videos of high-level CTF matches. I tried to replicate known glitches and hacks (usually unsuccessfully). My ping held me back, though. The grappling hook just wasn’t as responsive for me.
Then one day Charter came ‘round and gave me cable. I was ecstatic. Finally I’d be an LPB and starting owning people. (This was about the time that the word “own” had just come into widespread online usage with the meaning of “dominate.”) When the cable modem and cable and accessories had been installed, I was still looking at a 120ms ping at best. I was confused. “Two-way cable isn’t available in your area yet. Sorry.” I could use cable for downloading, but still had to use the phone line for uploading.
Head, meet desk.
I did as well as I could but just didn’t ever “feel fast” enough to be able to compete at a high level. I remained a perpetual scrub, a hanger-on, a wannabe. I played Action Quake 2 and every other variant I could find until it became old and tiresome. It was around this time that I began to dip my toes into MMOs on the side. I tried Quake 3 and didn’t like the flashy new plasma cannon and weak railgun. I tried Unreal Tournament and didn’t like the dodging that sent me off cliffs or the weird weapons that everyone was better at using than I was. I found a temporary home in CounterStrike 1.6 which employed speed-enhancing bunny hopping as a mode of travel, just as I had been accustomed to doing in Quake 2.
Eventually, though, I dropped out of the FPS genre and moved my belongings to the world of MMOs permanently. EverQuest, then World of Warcraft became my booze-fueled stomping grounds for a good decade. None of the FPS titles I tried after that ever recaptured the appeal of the fast, immediate, tactile, strategic, and in-your-face experience of the muscled space marines who would grunt when they jumped, scream terribly when they died a horrible lava death, or groan in pain when they took a rocket to the chest. I didn’t find those things to be attractive in and of themselves, but taken together on the whole, the experience of having played Quake 2 as my main FPS for several years is something I still recall fondly every now and then. It cultivated my love of twitch-spam in moderation, something that even today draws me to “skillshot”-based games such as WildStar.