Supple Think: 2400 N81

2400 N81

by Zen

Posted on Monday, May 5, 2008
Labels: , , , , , , , ,
For some time now I've been puzzling over just what the hell is so fun about the channels on the Wii. Everybody Votes is kind of neat, but only gives me anything to do every other day, and Check Mii Out is a great concept spoiled by the fact that everyone just votes for Harry Potter all the time. So why am I having so much fun with this stuff?

Back before Internet access was readily available, accessible, or affordable, I spent a lot of time as a kid dialing up local bulletin boards. There were lots of little cultures that developed around these, and the communities were tight-knit and usually really friendly. Since most boards had only one phone line, you'd log in, check all the messages, and get off the line to let other people come in and post. It was a simpler time, and the slower pace and local vibe held surprisingly little resemblance to the rapid-fire idle chatter of web-based boards today.

Sometimes, when a board got really fancy and someone was willing to shell out a few bucks or knew someone who had, it would have "door games". These were programs the board would drop you into that were usually pretty simple, but sometimes grew spectacularly complicated. All of this, with one notable exception, was done without much in the way of graphics or sound. Almost every one of these games rendered what visuals they had with the ANSI extended character set, making use of colors and symbols to draw pictures. These usually fell somewhere between ASCII art and MS Paint, but it wasn't uncommon to see fully animated scenes rendered this way. It's really amazing, looking back on it, how much people were able to squeeze out of the medium.

What got me thinking about all this again was the previews for Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King on WiiWare. So far the game sounds exactly like the empire-management sims I used to play on local BBSes. Solar Realms Elite, Barren Realms Elite, and Falcon's Eye were an awesome way to log in and spend ten minutes, making treaties with other players and waging war with your turns. There were trade agreements, different systems of government, and different ways to allocate your resources. My Life as a King similarly has you in the role of a monarch organizing his country to better encourage his subjects to spread his domain. It's all a bit like a cross between Falcon's Eye and Majesty, and it's too bad I can't see Squenix making the decision to give you ten in-game days each real day and letting you duke it out with people on your friends list, just like the BBS door games of the 90s.

As I get around to it, I'll maybe showcase a few of the standout games I used to play back in the day. It's a kind of video game that I simply never see anymore, and it's a shame since it's not one without merit. Some tried surviving the transition to real-time multiplayer, but it rarely worked. My great hope is that these kinds of games will find a place again on the Wii, alongside a program that lets you vote on something stupid every two days and decide whose Darth Vader is the best spaceship captain.

I get disappointed a lot.
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