Cat Context 20: Are Retro Games Still Fun or Just Nostalgia?

It’s Retro Game week on Cat Context! We’re talking about some of our favorite hits from the past, and sorting out whether they were actually amazing or if we’re just nostalgic.

Retro gaming is where Aro is a champion, and she helps us cover all our bases by talking about old console games, modern day emulators, and how great retro games have a great story. Liore talks about her Tamagotchi and playing System Shock 2, and Elly is a grump who says he likes retro games, but we don’t believe him. Star Wars Galaxies is often referred to as a game that died before its time, but is it that great or is it all nostalgia? All three of us tried out the SWGEmu and are amazed at how less satisfying it is now. Also, Elly and Aro fight over which Final Fantasy game is best, which really shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Also, Elly and Liore get defensive about playing TERA! Talk about the Neverwinter and Firefall betas!

As always Liore is joined by the most excellent Arolaide and Ellyndrial. What’s your favorite retro game? Email us at, tweet @Liores, or call our voice mail at (347) 565-4673.

It would be downright awesome if you gave us a vote on iTunes. :)

* The SWGemu website
* System Shock 2 on GoG
* Free Music Archive page for our theme, in THE crowd by The Years


(Don’t forget to leave 5 stars!)

More Screenshots and Tips from TERA

More Screenshots and Tips from TERA

Okay, enough serious business posts for now! Let’s look at some pretty stuff.

I’m still plucking away at TERA, with a level 12 Slayer and a level 24 Priest. We talk a bit on tomorrow’s podcast episode about why the game is fun despite it having a load of sexist nonsense, so I won’t get into that too much now, but I will commend TERA for its combat.

(By the way, like 6 of us from the Cats and Twitter have a guild. /gapply Bad Cats on Tempest Reach to join in!)

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My awsome rock lady Slayer

I’ve read plenty of criticisms about “tab target combat” in MMOs and I never quite understood what the alternatives were, but in TERA your attacks go where you point them, whether there’s a bad guy in that direction or not. Some mobs will run away from you, some will roll right past you as a defensive maneuver, and there is often strafing and kiting and dodge-rolling in standard combat.

Last night I took on my first BAM, or Big Ass Monster (yes, really) with a slightly higher level guildie, and it was great fun. He played a Sorcerer, the glass cannon class, while I was on my Priest (a healer with low DPS, and there ain’t no dual-spec in TERA). My guildie died at about 40%, and I plinked and kited the giant creature for probably close to 5 minutes until he could respawn and get back to the battle. Sure, I only took off maybe 10% of the boss’ health during that time, but kiting it around on the brink of death was damned exciting.

Anyway, I get a lot of “questions” about TERA through Google search terms, so let me answer a few and then I’ll get on with the photos.

Is there a banker in the first newbie zone? Yes! About halfway through the zone you’ll come across the small town at Tower Base, and the bank/mailbox character is in the southwest of the city.

Can I skip the queue by paying for TERA? No! Right now skipping the login queue is only available for Founders, or people who bought the box. Folks have reported the odd box still being available in out-of-the-way stores, but personally I don’t think it’s worth the effort. There are also Elite players, which are the folks paying a subscription. They have fewer limitations, like more character slots and auctions, but not queue skipping.

How do I leave a guild? Actually, leaving a guild is pretty easy (the guild menu is “g”). The trick is that there’s a week-long cooldown before you can join another guild, so join and leave wisely.

What class should I play? Dude, I don’t even know what class I should play. They’re all super different, so just try them out.

So first, pretty vistas!

tera4 500x318 More Screenshots and Tips from TERA

A woodsy landscape in TERA

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Mountainous landscape in TERA

I came across this giant, strange-looking egg in the wild while doing a quest, so of course I shot it. Then it unfolded into a giant crab/spider hybrid thing and ate me. :(

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Creepy egg monster in TERA

One of the best things about TERA is all the weird crap in the world.

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What.. is going on here?

tera1 More Screenshots and Tips from TERA

I had to kill this guy for a quest, but it felt like killing a Katamari. :(

“Because Money, That’s Why”

Last week I wrote about my disappointment over the initial Wildstar character options and their overuse of broad-chested guys and big-chested ladies (and ladybots). Someone suggested to me via Twitter that the reason we constantly see “hot chicks and cool dudes” as character models is that they’re the most economically successful choices. We, the gaming public, like to be sexy and cool in our video games.

No slight to the fellow on Twitter, but man, as a whole I’m starting to make a face whenever a current game development habit is defended purely for being the profitable option.

First, that response neatly removes all responsibility from the marketplace and places it all on the player. If we’re overwhelmingly offered the option to play generically sexy humanoids, to use an example from the Wildstar post, is it really surprising that people overwhelmingly play generically sexy humanoids? And what about marketing? Player preferences certainly seem less organic and democratic when you consider that close to a billion dollars* is spent each year by the game industry in the hopes of influencing our playtime decisions.

In fact, while games featuring only male protagonists sell 25% better than games with both male and female character options, on average the latter game will get a smaller marketing budget. Apparently having a female protagonist in an action game is “tough to justify”, but is this the will of the people, or a self-fufilling prophecy?

I also have concerns about money being a grand arbiter of game development and publishing because it seems like a slippery slope that historically we are not good at avoiding. Bioshock Infinite is downplaying both the character of Elizabeth and its unique retro steampunk vibe in its advertising to appeal more to the “frat boys” because that’s where the big money is apparently, and while on its surface that might not seem so bad it also seems to set a boundless precident.

When the driving question is “what will appeal to a larger market”, the answer can almost never end. What if the Bioshock Infinite folks took out a bit of story in the middle and put in another shooting level? What if they put Elizabeth in a bikini on the front cover? No wait, what if they got rid of Elizabeth completely and instead gave lead character Booker a posse of wise-cracking white dudes with big guns? Hey, the market gets what it wants, baby!

And exactly how small does a gamer market segment have to be to not earn the attention of developers and publishers, anyway? Perhaps generically pretty character models do statistically attract the most players, but at the same time approximately 32% of Guild Wars 2 characters are the tiny dog-faced Asura or weird giant cat Charr. Shortly after it launched, roughly 21% of WoW players played a decidedly unsexy gnome. Heck, Star Wars Galaxies had one human option and a bunch of weirdass aliens and it still hit 200k subscribers at its peak, which is not an amazing number but certainly not peanuts for 2004.

Developers and publishers can probably wring the most profit out of their game by avoiding innovation. So what? Once you factor in things like the industry’s own marketing efforts, the (lack of) availability of alternative options, and fact that games that offer something different have an existing audience and receive higher critical scores.. well, I don’t think “because money, that’s why” is a reasonable argument.


* That’s an estimate based on the fact that game marketers spent 824 million in 2008, the only hard number I could find.

Abridged Version of the Playstation 4 Announcement

I’m not much of a console person, but I watched a good bit of Sony’s Playstation 4 presentation on Wednesday because.. well, it was there. And I get really bored at work sometimes, okay?

Anyway, I probably should have waited because this 3 minute abridged version by “VideoGamerTV” is amazing and way more entertaining than the real thing. Enjoy the video, and have a great weekend!

Confessions of an MMO Anarchist, or why chaos is better than order in online societies

In a post from last Friday Mr. ThatAngryDwarf wrote about a conversation he had with myself and Arolaide on the Zombie Invasion in World of Warcraft. In his post he good-naturedly called me an MMO Anarchist, and after some consideration I think he’s right. In fact while reading his post I was somewhat struck by how my very strong “small-p-political” beliefs in social democracy and the common good often go right out the window as an MMO player. So what’s the deal, me?

One of the reasons I have gravitated to the MMO genre is because I find people to be fascinating. I’m endlessly interested in how social structures are formed in new games, or even just how two players will react to the same situation in totally different ways. Game mechanics are important, and certainly I’d be hard-pressed to keep playing a game with miserable mechanics, but it’s people interacting with each other that creates the real long term content.

This probably isn’t a very contentious line of thought until one starts to consider trolls and griefers. If MMOs ideally let people interact with each other freely, won’t some players be caught in the crossfire? Lowbies will be corpse camped to frustration, questers will be deterred from completing tasks by zombified players, someone will zip in and nab the resource node that you quite obviously wanted. These unpleasant events are not something I enjoy being a victim of and certainly not something I try to do myself, so surely I must be in favor of removing them through moderation or a change in mechanics? My answer is: no way, man!

Giving people the freedom to be kind or mean or greedy or charitable is how, in my opinion, great content is made. People, in all their chaotic glory, are the best content of all.

Don’t believe me? Look at some of the more memorable stories to come out of multiplayer games! There was the guy whose character was “kidnapped” in DayZ by a gang of armed bandits. I still remember the name of Biny, the gnome who infamously blew up a packed auction house in Ironforge with raid boss Baron Geddon’s Living Bomb debuff. There’s Fansy the Famous Bard who brought the fight to the “evil” guys on Everquest’s Sullon Zek server, or the guy who killed Lord British in Ultima Online, or pretty much every great story you’ve ever heard about EvE Online.

Every last one of these events is technically griefing. The culprits all interrupted people’s gameplay without their permission. Events like these are also part of the reason I started playing MMOs in the first place. Bollocks to a world and its players that always follows the rules — chaos can make things pretty exciting.

(I should mention that my appreciation of chaos goes exactly as far as the borders of a game. The minute the real world gets involved, whether it’s using slurs or divulging someone’s personal information or threatening to confront a player in person or whatever crazy thing, I’m back to being a fan of the hard line.)

MMOs are too static as it is, with worlds that remain basically the same for years between expansions. Giving players the freedom to be honest and terrible and surprising and delightful … that’s the real dynamic content of a virtual world.

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