Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Defacing The Classics

I know what you're thinkng: Godfather 3. Or maybe Lucas & Spielberg tinkering with Star Wars and E.T., respectively. Or maybe the remake of Sabrina. Or the "Casablanca" television series.

But actually, I'm talking about games. Classic games are defaced at a rate that would put Hollywood to shame. There probably isn't a single successful game over five years old that hasn't been trashed. (OK, that's an exaggeration, but not by much.)

I've never been much of a multiplayer game guy. Computer games have always been my way of getting away from other people. The math intrigues me; I like to figure the underlying numbers. Plus it tends to take an inordinate amount of time to arrange times, setup options, work out kinks, and so on, and I have little time.

'course, The Boy and I have played a fair amount of the years. We've gone from me being able to read a book while playing to him kicking my ass on first person shooters and non-business real time strategies. (I can still beat him in Capitalism and Civilization!)

But I did venture online briefly to play the Seven Kingdoms game. Seven Kingdoms was a rare combination of economic and military strategy that was more a cult classic. As a result I hooked up with some very smart people from all over the world (with handles like WindyCloud, Reno and Amarok) and actually got in on the beta for Seven Kingdoms II. (7K2 was not a great success and may be a great example of user feedback ruining the design, but that's another discussion.)

Both products were the brain-child of Trevor Chan (also the creator of Capitalism), and both were hampered by distribution issues. Chan resolved his issues by turning his game company, Enlight, into a game publisher.

But while Chan was an exemplary game designer, his efforts at publishing seem to have resulted in less than optimal results, perhaps not as a publisher--as you can certainly find their games on the shelves--but as a developer, as they have released some real dogs. And former flagship products (Capitalism and Seven Kingdoms) have been basically neglected.

One difference between games and movies is that gamers look forward to new versions of their games, since the technology improves so quickly, and there are always ideas that couldn't make it into the original.

But in this case, I'd just as soon they'd left Seven Kingdoms for dead. No, I haven't played it. But it was supposedly in a "late alpha" three years ago--meaning it should have been out 2 1/2 years ago. The last ship-date I saw for it was a year ago. And in gaming, a little slip is often good. A big slip is almost always disastrous.

So now we have Seven Kingdoms: Conquest. And because Enlight is a good publisher, it'll sit there on shelves for the next ten years, mocking those of us who used to love it.

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