Best Games EVAR

For no particular reason (well, because I was thinking about it), here’s a list of what I consider to be the best video games ever made. It should go without saying that this list is incredibly biased and idiosyncratic, and since it only includes games that I have personally played and loved, a game’s omission doesn’t mean it’s bad. It just means that I either didn’t play it or it didn’t click with me.

Also, this is not an ordered list. Maybe I’ll make one of those later, but for now just wracking my brain for a list of games is hard enough without trying to decide what scale I’m going to use to decide which is my ALL TIME BESTEST FAVORITE EVER.

I’ve also included, in order, the developer, publisher, and the year of publication for my own reference (or the year I bought the game, if I played it substantially in alpha or beta). For series I loved, I just picked the best game.

  • Dark Forces (LucasArts, 1995)
  • Crusader Kings II (Paradox Development Studio, Paradox Interactive, 2012)
  • System Shock 2 (Irrational Games/Looking Glass Studios, EA, 1999)
  • TIE Fighter (Totally Games, LucasArts, 1994)
  • Kerbal Space Program (Squad, 2013)
  • Mass Effect 2 (Bioware, EA, 2010)
  • Age of Empires III (Ensemble Studios, Microsoft Game Studios, 2005)
  • Knights of the Old Republic (Bioware, EA, 2003)
  • Thief 2: The Metal Age (Looking Glass Studios, Eidos, 2000)
  • Minecraft (Mojang, 2010?)
  • Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri (Firaxis Games, EA, 1999)
  • Unreal Tournament (Epic Games, GT Interactive, 1999)
  • Full Throttle (LucasArts, 1995)
  • Homeworld (Relic Entertainment, Sierra Entertainment, 1999)
  • Super Metroid (Nintendo, 1994)
  • Freespace 2 (Volition, Inc., Interplay, 1999)
  • Silent Hunter 4: Wolves of the Pacific (Ubisoft Romania, Ubisoft, 2007)
  • Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Traveller’s Tales, LucasArts, 2007)
  • Dark Souls (From Software, 2011)
  • Microsoft Flight Simulator X (Microsoft Game Studios, 2006)

Apparently I’m OCD enough to require that my list have an even number of items on it, so there you go. Some observations, now that I’ve actually got these written down:

  • Apparently I’m not a big fan of console titles. only three games above are console titles: Lego Star Wars, Super Metroid, and Dark Souls. Those last two the only Japanese games, also. I suspect that’s because a lot of genres that are very popular in Japan, like RPGs and platformers, aren’t genres I often get in to.
  • There’s a range of dates in there. I just bought Kerbal Space Program eight weeks ago but it’s already got a place in the “best games ever” category. On the flip side, TIE Fighter came out in 1994. Most of the titles are spread out over the intervening two decades, except…
  • 1999. Apparently that was a great year. 5 of the 20 games above were released in 1999, and Thief 2 was released in early 2000. All of those 1999 games (except for maybe Homeworld) are ones that I still play off and on.
  • Super Metroid is the only game above that I didn’t play at the time of its release. In fact, I’ve only played Super Metroid on emulators, since I never owned a SNES. I doubt the timing is coincidental: a lot of games, even if they stay awesome in some ways, aren’t always easy to play decades changes in graphics and, especially for me, interface standards can make old games tough to get into. That’s why you don’t see, for instance, Planescape: Torment on this list.
  • The mix of genres is well-represented. I don’t play many sports games or platformers, but I’ve got RPGs, FPSs, and both real-time and turn-based strategy games up there. Even sims! Man, I love sims and it sucks that most of the ones left are either too casual for my taste or too hardcore for the amount of time I have.

That’s pretty much it. What are your favorite titles? Strongly disagree with any of mine? Sound off.

The Future that Never Was

This post originally appeared on the blog of Brad Cameron, author of the Zeke Proper Chronicles.

I want to talk about a different type of mythology. I’m getting away from dictionary definitions here, because what I want to talk about has nothing to do with sacred narratives or ancient heroes striding into conflict with gods and titans. Rather, I want to talk about a far more recent past and heroes both more and less down to Earth.

This is a hilarious pun, as you’ll see in a moment.

When Neil Armstrong died on August 25, 2012, he was mourned by the entire world. He represented everything that was good about the USA: he was capable, but humble. Strong, but circumspect. He was a celebrity because of his scientific accomplishments, something that very few men (and perhaps no women) have ever achieved.

People in the spaceflight and planetary science communities mourned him for all these reasons, of course. They’re still people. But they also mourned him because of what he represented: a space-faring future that never was.

In retrospect, once we had beaten the Soviet Union to the moon, political will to power evaporated. We got the Space Shuttle, which was still impressive but felt like a step backward. Skylab was short-lived. Mir was only headline news when it broke. And yet, there was always hope, dimmed though it was, of the glory days of Apollo returning, where the future would once again stretch out before us to an impossibly distant horizon.

Armstrong’s death changed nothing concrete, of course. He’d been largely out of the public eye for years and had a minimal effect on policy. And yet, in the minds of people still yearning for Mars bases and space hotels and day trips to the moon, his death seemed in an instant to turn from all that from possibility to mythology.

Let us take a moment to admire an example of what we might have had.

My personal favorite is this design for a US Air Force space warship. She would have carried hundred of bombs, not as weapons, but as its propulsion system. Every five seconds, a bomb would explode behind the ship, propelling it forward like gunpowder propels a bullet. And she was armed to fight the ships that other nations like the USSR would invariably launch. I’m glad we don’t have warfare in space, but we’re not much closer to having the engineering expertise to build one of these than we were in 1970.

A more peaceful and realistic plan was to use leftover resources from the Apollo program to send astronauts on a yearlong mission to Venus and, at somewhat greater distance, to Mercury. This would have been by far the longest time men had spent in space, and would’ve taken them tens of thousands of times farther away than their lunar-lander comrades. Unlike the Air Force warship, we had the technology to do this, but we don’t any longer–much the knowledge required has been lost through the decades. We’re better at putting people in space for a long time, but not necessarily much better at getting them up there.

Here’s the real kick, though, and the reason why I find all of this so interesting: the future that it describes could still be ours. All we need is the will to make it. Neil Armstrong won’t live to see it, but if groups like SpaceX and the Planetary Society have their way, there’s no reason why you and I won’t. That’s why this is my very favorite bit of mythology: it didn’t happen…but it still could.

Image

SOON

FmnRi

The Post-Con Naps

I just woke up from a two-hour nap. This nap was necessary because, in spite of 9 hours of sleep, I’m still exhausted from Norwescon. In convention terms, that means I had a very good time.

Regular readers (ha!) may remember remember a series of posts about last year’s Worldcon, where I expressed considerable annoyance with my apparent inability to talk to people I didn’t already know, whether they were fans or pros. It turns out that there are two solutions for this problem:

  1. alcohol
  2. a ready-made conversation-starter

By “alcohol,” what I really mean is a social environment where walking up to random people and saying, “what’s up” is acceptable and even expected. That way I don’t have to deal with my issues of not wanting to intrude on people’s personal space. If you fit 50 people into a smallish hotel room, nobody’s going to have personal space anyway, so who cares?

The ready-made conversation-starter was more accidental: I just went wearing my NIWA shirt and pin. Between that and the dealer flag on my con badge, people more often than not asked me what I was selling, and that let me dive in my NIWA spiel. I got very good at that spiel. And then, once that was over, the conversation could move along naturally. I talked to plenty of pros and plenty of fans that way, and I don’t think I ever embarrassed myself once, despite the atomic cherries floating about.

I’m not a social butterfly and I never will be, but it’s nice to know that I can mingle and schmooze and make some friends in the right set of circumstances.

Other con notes: it was a pretty good convention for Fugitives from Earth, especially compared to other recent events where it got no interest at all. I was one of the top sellers from NIWA, although the convention itself was admittedly slow for us. A big part of that, I’m convinced, was our booth setup. A million other small things contributed as well; I suspect that we’ll have a lot to talk about at our next meeting.

Norwescon itself was great: good panels, great costumes, lots of people and interesting things going on. Aside from last year’s Worldcon, it’s the best convention I’ve ever been to. Even if NIWA doesn’t go back next year, I probably will.

Norwescon!

Hey everyone! I’m at Norwescon! Just arrived at my hotel after spending an hour and a half setting up our booth in the dealer’s room, and then walking a quarter mile in the middle of a raging thunderstorm. I was so close a bolt of lightning that I could hear the sizzle as it struck, a quarter-second before the thunder hit.

The view

The lovely view from my hotel window.

It’s funny, this being the third con I’ve attended in the last year, that I’m starting to recognize people. Mostly dealer’s room folks; they tend to make pretty regular circuits to the local cons just like NIWA. But, there’s also various random attendees that I glance at in the hall and think, “Hey, I saw him in Reno.”

Another fun tidbit about Norwescon: it’s kind of packed. In terms of attendance-to-space ratio, this is the largest con I’ve ever been to, and I’m hoping that I’ll be doing less scooting between clots of people as the rush to registration ends.

Final tidbit for now: this is the first time I’ve ever stayed in a hotel room all by myself. Is that weird? Every other time I’ve been with my wife, my parents, or friends. I feel like a decadent Roman emperor, lounging all alone on the rock-hard beds or flipping channels on the ancient Zenith CRT.

Anyone else at Norwescon? Stop by the dealer’s room and say hi at the NIWA booth.

Rediscovering the Process

It’s pretty funny, in an “oh well” sort of way, that I’m having to rediscover my novel-writing process just a few months after finishing the previous novel, and less than two years after starting it.

As you might’ve guessed from the paucity of updates, it’s been a  hard first quarter of the year. I’ve started a half-dozen short stories, and the only one I finished was about 1,200 words and completely unpublishable. I haven’t been able to get back into my NaNoWriMo novel, and I might never do so. And my attempts to start this most recent novel are just now picking up steam, in spite of the first part being done in February.

When I wrote Fugitives from Earth, I took the entire month before I started the novel to sketch bits of setting, character, and plot. I did research. I thought about set pieces I wanted to include. By the time I was actually ready to start writing, I felt like I was about to explode with ideas.

I didn’t do that so much before this most recent NaNoWriMo, just because I was laboring so hard trying to get FfE done in time for OryCon. At the time, this didn’t seem like a major problem–I had a really strong concept of the story–but in retrospect I think it hurt me more than I understood at the time. The way I think about it, it boils down to a subtle but crucial difference: last NaNoWriMo, I had the concept of the story. With Fugitives from Earth, I had the concept of the world, as if it were a real place.

That distinction just came to me a day or two ago. I took a break from writing the story after two failed attempts to continue on from an awesome prologue, and I went back to my setting document. Before, this was about 300 words describing the universe and what I wanted to focus on. Basically, what I would’ve told somebody who asked about it in the line for lunch.

But that didn’t inspire me. I wanted to have a concept of the world of this work in progress as though I lived in it. I wanted to be able to picture people eating dinner, going on dates, flying to other planets, talking to aliens, brushing their teeth, and wasting time. My goal with my own universe is the same as it was with medieval England back in my college history days: I wanted to know what the average person did on a daily basis.

I think it’s helped. Those 300 words are now more like 5,000 and counting. Most of it will never–and seriously, should never–end up in the novel. But I can already feel like I’m getting into the headspace of my characters. Once I know how the world works, I can focus on who my characters are. And once I know that, the story will start to come naturally.

I hope.

From the WIP

Allow me to present you with these notes from my current work-in-progress. They’re written in the perspective of a fairly recent colonist from the planet St. Lucie. This was originally written for me, not for you, so there may be spelling and grammar errors.

The Republic began as the gradual unification of individual superpowers on Old Earth, with the addition of various extra-planetary organizations in the early 22nd century. When Humans discovered the system jump technology, the Republic was formally institutionalized to pose a united front against the Others that Humans found as they explored.

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