Friday, 2 February 2018

Pitting the Role-Playing Game Golden Age Against the Role-Playing Game Renaissance

Pitting the Role-Playing Game Golden Age Against the Role-Playing Game Renaissance

Ishar: A trilogy of the Golden Age, best played on the Amiga 1200

Yep. Another poll has just been posted; this one, to give voice to Golden Age aficionados who have expressed disappointment in respect to the limitations of my Renaissance treatment range and accompanying poll, which is currently at 2000 votes with the year 2000 blowing the competition away (as expected). Each of the two eras was assigned eight years of role-playing game goodness to strengthen its case for supremacy.

There is a 200 character limit for each poll entry and, while that means that, even with abbreviations, not every great RPG that came out in those eight years can be listed, I think just listing several of the most famous should do the trick. Besides, people generally know what these two eras are about, anyway. "Goldbox", for example, encompasses no less than 11 individual titles including the Pool of Radiance, Savage Frontier, DragonLance and Buck Rogers series'. That's a pretty damn impressive line-up.

In short, the Golden Age contains many of the seminal games as exemplified by Dungeon Master on the Atari ST (1987). Yep, I played it on original hardware (520 ST FM) and even modded the Amiga version thanks to Meynaf. By the way, the Amiga version sports stereo sound; the PC and ST are only mono.

Speaking of which, the capabilities of the Amiga's sound chip (Paula) were impressive for the time. Those who heard the music in Hired Guns back in 1993 were blown away. This is before CD-ROMs, this is coding to chips. Best music of the Golden Age, by far — packed into 612 KB!!!

You can also download the lha containing all of the tracks on ExoticA and play them flawlessly in DeliPlayer. Or, you know, just play the game in WinUAE? Setup instructions here.

I won't ridicule DOS version visuals/aurals by posting a link for comparison. :P

In general, RPGs did not take advantage of the Amiga's capabilities due to the scrubby DOS devs being almost entirely ignorant of the original alien ware. By that I mean, the custom chipset that flaunted blitter, copper, extended palette and hardware scrolling, which were so advanced for their time that marketing gurus struggled to describe what they were trying to sell the public, and people joked that the Amiga was designed by aliens. Take for example the famous scene demo by Crionics/Silents, known as Hardwired. Released in 1991 — fits on a single 880 KB diskette.

Stylemasters, through and through. The musician went on to compose for games such as HitmanAssassin's Creed and Borderlands.

Anyway, the IBM-PC didn't have a custom chipset (ModeX for DOS came 4 years late), and almost no port from the PC to the Amiga was enhanced to take advantage of what the latter flaunted either — which is just embarrassing, and I blush for the devs of the era.

Hired Guns: Slick visuals & thumping soundtrack (Amiga)

Play this game on a CRT or go home.
Thus, the above, along with Ultima Underworld's texture mapping, are notable exceptions to the Golden Age generally not sporting great visuals, aurals or UIs (not even for the time) — but game-play was certainly in abundance. There is very little hand-holding or spoon-feeding in Golden Age RPGs. Inside the boxes were thick-ass manuals, and if you didn't RTFM then you were groping around in the dark because the game itself would not point the way. In-game, unless you have a great memory, you will need to map the dungeons out by hand using graph paper. Doesn't sound riveting, does it? Mapping out a dungeon on graph paper. Well, some people prefer that over auto-mapping through the UI. But how about sitting there staring at your display while your spells get memorized, one-by-one; anyone enjoy that? On the other hand, the Renaissance, or API era, removed much of the tedium and represented the point at which RPGs greatly increased in complexity and dev technical proficiency hit its height; so much so, that RPGs that came before and after the Renaissance are, as a rule of thumb, Baby's First in comparison.

Moreoever, despite the post-API era technological advances that people go on about like they even matter to the genre, the graphics and sounds of the Renaissance compare favorably to the current gen. Higher fidelity doesn't mean a thing when you don't have a background in traditional art, for example. If anything, it makes the artist look worse than they already are. People just had superior aesthetic taste a couple of decades ago; more cultivated palates. These days, speaking more generally now on development, we just have wannabes laboring under the delusion they can develop RPGs, and has-beens vainly trying to relive the glory days by playing the role of a beggar on the Kickstarter platform, dressed in what amounts to rags. Even the artists and musicians are tasteless scrubs lacking in the fundamentals, and the writers are hacks that a lowly blogger like myself could outdo. I'm not butthurt about this dire state of affairs, though: it gives me heaps of crap to criticize, and the Renaissance is inexhaustible when you take into account the modding revolution that graced it with the advent of Neverwinter Nights. At the end of the day, as long as I have NWN along with the likes of Fallout, Jagged Alliance 2 and Temple of Elemental Evil in my library, I want for nothing. Let the fools hanker after everything that's new: they will never be satisfied.

Anyway! It will be interesting to see how many readers of this blog value the Golden Age over the Renaissance. This is another long-standing poll, set to expire in 2030. Cast your vote, please. Poll is embedded to the top of the blog, just below the header.

Even the Golden Age cuts a poor figure against the Renaissance

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