With the Dreamcast making a relatively big splash, it seemed that Sega may have finally got the hardware right this time. However, despite them listening to fans and developers, Sega still had poor relations with certain third party developers due to their past shenanigans. With the PlayStation 2 announcement, Sega had to act fast if they wanted to stay in the console hardware race. Microsoft also announced their own console, one that would surpass them all in graphics, but being a newcomer, they needed a big opening in order to garner fans. And so Halo was born and solidified it’s name in the console hardware race. This week I will talk about games in which I was drawn to, losing countless hours just sitting at my computer desk, as well as trembling on my couch. Here are my 3 games of the week:
RollerCoaster Tycoon 2
(Chris Sawyer Productions) 1 Player – 2002
Being the second game in the series, RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 is a construction management simulation for the PC that was developed by Chris Sawyer who did the design, coding and artwork by himself just like the first game. The game remained more or less the same 3 years after the first game which had critics and players in dispute, however it didn’t stop it from being the best selling in the franchise.
Chris at first was going to make a sequel to Transport Tycoon, another one of his successful games, but had a sudden fascination with roller coasters. Both the first and this game actually grew out of code originally for the sequel for Transport Tycoon. He wrote it in x86 assembly, a low level programming language that had a small level of abstraction. This meant that the game loaded instantly and the game ran on even lower end hardware of the time. Chris Sawyer received about 30 million of the estimated 180 million brought in by all of his tycoon games. I’ve seen programmers on the internet say that that amount of money would not be worth writing an entire game (99%) in assembly.
I’ve probably logged in at least 100 hours on this game, usually in campaign mode that, from what I recall, set certain time limits for the player to reach a certain goal. What really sucked me in was trying to get all the awards that the game would give you if you kept the park tidy, had the best rides, or if had the best value for example. I guess you can say that I liked the micro-management of the prices, staff, and creating the roller coasters from scratch. Then there’s the park guests that you can rename and even torture which did add to the fun. Cheats were a big part during my playthroughs as I liked the sandbox nature of the game. I do still play the 3rd iteration of the series from time to time. I definitely recommend this game.
(Tecmo) 1 Player – 2002
Fatal Frame is a survival horror game for the PlayStation 2 that is set in 1986 at a real-world place known for it’s gruesome murders in Japanese history. The story follows a sibling who searches for her brother that goes missing in a haunted mansion after he goes searching for a famous novelist. You explore the mansion while fighting off hostile ghosts using a special camera. The game was seen as an unexpected success in North America and Europe by the team leaders who believe that the 2002 movie The Ring may have contributed. However, the game sold relatively poorly, having the lowest sales of the series.
The game drew inspiration from Silent Hill with it’s good reception of polygon characters and so they took it one step further by creating a sense of seeing things off screen. The development began after the PlayStation 2 hardware was introduced to Tecmo. The concept was created by director Makoto Shibata based on his own spiritual experiences. Producer Keisuke Kikuchi wanted to create the most frightening atmosphere yet, so the team watched both high and low budget Japanese horror and war films. The sound director Shigekiyo Okuda‘s concept for this game was to use stereophonic sound which creates the impression of multi-direction audio. As rituals were a core part of the story, the team had little to no experience with such things. In order to help them with that aspect, they referred to a manga named Yōkai Hunter.
This was one of the first games that I played on the PlayStation 2 and it was also the scariest games yet (at least for me). The unsettling darkness throughout the game, with it’s atmospheric sounds, was something that made me only play when I was with another person in the room (I was a high school freshman). Having to use the right stick to control the flashlight while using the left stick to move the player felt like it utilized the DualShock 2 very well. I remember that there was heavy use of jump scares, usually when a ghost appeared. And when a ghost did appear, it was intense trying to get the ghost in your viewfinder and snapping a shot to “kill” it. The game is available on PSN if you are into that sort of thing.
(Dice) 64 Player LAN – 2002
Published by EA in 2002, Battlefield 1942 is a World War II first person shooter for the PC that is considered to be one of the most ground-breaking games in FPS history and one to be historically accurate. The main mode of gameplay is Conquest (Capture the flag) where you take over control points. It has several maps in the Pacific, European, North African, Eastern and Italian fronts. The game received awards for Online Gameplay, Innovation in PC Gaming, PC Game of the Year, and Game of the Year at the 6th annual Interactive Achievement Awards.
The game took 3 years to make with a team of 40 people. It has it’s origins in a very fun but commercially unsuccessful game called Codename Eagle by Refraction Games (now merged with Dice). They then set out to improve the gameplay by making it fun first and foremost, while making the models and physics close to realistic. They provided total and full support of mods that became popular (source). An Xbox version was announced but was cancelled so that they can work on expansions for the PC.
The first time I played this at an internet cafe was right after playing many rounds of Counter-Strike. The sheer amount of players (5 friends with 59 bots) was like nothing I’ve played before at the time. The sounds in the game were superb and made sniping in this game feel more intense. I remember looking down a hill at the other side of a bridge, and seeing the enemy run down in droves in the distance gave me a sense of urgency, a feeling unmatched by any other game to date. Unfortunately, the game hasn’t aged well, with its graphic being dated. Even with the more recent Battlefield 1943, the maps included did not capture the massive size of the maps that, to this day, hasn’t been matched with Dices recent Battlefield offerings.
With the Dreamcast’s short life span and Sega’s exit from console hardware, it was clear that the Xbox was going to take it’s place as a worthy competitor to Sony. The PlayStation 2 became wildly popular due to it’s secondary feature being a DVD-Player (the cheapest one at the time) and today is considered the best selling console of all time. But nobody would ever guess the phenomenon that would take place in the later 2000s that would take the world by storm, one that would bring another player back on top in terms of sales and would cause a rift throughout the entire industry that had all other players follow suit. Next time we will learn about that phenomenon and it’s lasting effects in today’s world.
Thanks for reading.