Mattel Intellivision – Game Opinion Summaries / First Impressions, Part 1

I got this console a couple of months ago… and quickly decided I wanted to make a Game Opinion Summaries list for it, because why not?  I have not done a list like this yet for the Colecovision, which I got last year, or for Atari 2600 or 5200 games I’ve gotten since the lists I did years ago. I am thinking about writing all of those. Anyway, after some long delays, here it finally is, part one of this two-part series! In this article I cover 19 of the 40 games I have for the Intellivision. Yes, 19; game 20 is Microsurgeon, and I haven’t played it enough yet.

Table of Contents

 

Introduction and System Overview

The Mattel Intellivision released in 1979 as a test market product, then 1980 in full nationwide release in the US. This console was heavily marketed, and ended up selling three million systems, which is the second most of any console that generation. That’s less impressive as it sounds, as the Atari 2600 sold tens of millions of systems while the next top four — the Intellivision, Colecovision, Odyssey 2, and Atari 5200 — sold one to three million each, but it’s something. I’d never played an Intellivision before this year, however. I have known people who owned them though, and they never had much of anything positive to say about the system. I’ve heard that the controller is horrible, that the games aren’t as good as Atari games, and more. So, I went into this not expecting the best… and unfortunately it lives down to expectations. There are some things to like about the Intellivision, but my first impression is that it’s my least favorite of the five pre-crash consoles that I have, the ones listed in this paragraph. It’s probably better than most of the other, lesser-known platforms that generation, though, I just don’t have those.

Anyway, the Mattel Intellivision is an interesting system. It uses a 16-bit CPU, which was a first for the industry. However, while it’s got a wider bus, the CPU has a slow clock speed when compared to the 2600. Indeed, many 2600-to-Intellivision ports end up running more slowly on this system than they do on the Atari, which is not great for a newer system. Graphics are almost always improved, but game speed is not. What is the Intellivision good at, then? Well, graphics for one; the Intellivision can draw much more complex and detailed visuals than prior consoles. In terms of overall graphics, the system sits right where its release date suggests, a bit above the 2600 but well behind the newer Atari 5200 and Colecovision, which released 2 1/2 to three years after this system to effectively start a new console generation. I wasn’t expecting Colecovision-caliber graphics from this system, and it doesn’t have them, but games often have nicely detailed sprites and environments that you’d certainly never see on Atari 2600. Audio is decent as well, for the time. The standard audio is fairly typical stuff, but like the Odyssey 2, the Intellivision has a speech synthesizer addon. This addon is fairly cheap, but while I have three of the four games that support it, I don’t have one yet, unfortunately. Once I get one I will report on how the three games play, though I mention them below with little placeholder articles for now.

So, the Intellivision has some good and bad points in its graphics. In terms of controls, though, the system is infamously awful, and unfortunately I have to agree with the critics here. I may like the Atari 5200 controller, and I really do apart from a few things (durability, the side buttons), but this thing is awful! The Intellivision controller is terrible for several reasons, but the ergonomics are the biggest. The controller has two buttons on each side, a 12-key keypad set down behind little plastic dividers, and at the bottom a round disc that controls movement. The disc, which has a full 16 directions it can identify versus the average stick’s four or maybe eight with diagonals, was an important innovation that presaged the creation of the d-pad. It is also, however, horribly uncomfortable. Perhaps the biggest problem is this plastic ridge around the disc. It’s hard to not get your finger painfully rubbing against the hard edge of the ridge! The side buttons are uncomfortable to use as well, the idea of putting the main action buttons on the side of a controller was a bad one. I’ll never understand why Atari and Coleco both copied this controller, of all things, in their next consoles! This vertically-oriented controller with side fire buttons concept was not a good one, and all three of the resulting controllers show why that is. Of the three, though, this is the most painfully uncomfortable to hold and use, it’s not close. The controllers do look nice when set in the console, though. As with many consoles of the day, there are indentations in the console itself to store the controllers in, and when in there the flat top of the console has a pretty nice look to it.

Overlays – Overlays are something that I think the Intellivision did first. These plastic sheets go over the 12-button keypad part of the controller, and tell you what the buttons do. As with many other things about the controller, this questionable idea would go on to also appear in the Atari 5200 and Colecovision controllers, as well as the Atari Jaguar later on. The concept is good, and for some games these overlays are helpful. Games did not have large enough memory sizes yet to be able to have on-screen button indicators for everything like a modern game might, so having something physical, attached to the controller, is a good idea. Some of the overlays have nice artwork on them as well. I don’t have overlays for all of the games I have, not even close, but I do have some overlays and they’re helpful, because a lot of Intellivision games pretty much require them. However, if you don’t have the overlay, some games are pretty much unplayable unless you look one up online or buy one, because the buttons are not at all intuitive, they could be anywhere. Those other systems with overlays make far less use of them than the Intellivision. Indeed, most 5200 and Colecoivsion games either don’t come with an overlay, or they have one but it serves no purpose because all that’s on it is like ‘press numbers for difficulty or number of players’, and those are in consistent places on the number pads so you won’t need to always look at the overlay like you to on Intellivision. And on top of that, despite their overlays usually being less necessary, both of those systems have overlay storage built right into their cartridges, which is great. With the Intellivision you just need to try to not lose them, or only buy complete in box games and store them in the boxes. That’s inconvenient.

My biggest issue with overlays isn’t any of those things, though, it’s that the concept of having a keypad on a game controller didn’t prove to be a good one. A modern controller has a lot of buttons, but they are all in different places on the pad, so you can remember, through memorization and such, which are which. On a keypad, however, good luck with that! With 12 buttons so close together, that overlay is pretty much your only hope of knowing which button is which, a lot of the time. There’s a good reason why only two systems released since 1983 have had keypads on them, and both failed — the Jaguar and N-Gage. It just isn’t a very good idea. I can understand what they were going for, it gives you a bunch of buttons for settings and such, but the alternate directions the industry would go in later, towards on-screen menus instead of lots of buttons and controllers with buttons in more notably different places, is, I think, overall better than this. I have an N-Gage, and trying to play a game like Tomb Raider or Tony Hawk with 15 buttons all right next to eachother is FAR more difficult than it is on a Playstation controller! It’s kind of a nightmare really… the Intellivision isn’t as bad as that, because of how its keypad is used and because it supports only pressing one button at a time, but it is still an issue.

And of course, that’s not even getting into the ergonomics of the thing, which are poor. There’s no way to make a 12+ button keypad ergonomically friendly, I don’t think. So, overlays are an interesting idea and I like having them, and they definitely make playing games a lot easier than regular numbered buttons in these same games would — see Gateway to Apshai (Colecovision) for an example of that, they didn’t make an overlay for it so instead you need to reference the manual all the time to remember what each of the nine numbers does, it’s not great — but I do think that the keypad is one of several decisions, along with the vertically-oriented controller, painful ridge around the disc, total absence of ergonomics, and side-mounted, mushy fire buttons, that are why Intellivision are so disliked. That the Colecovision, and Atari 5200 controllers do many of the same things wrong is a lot of why their reputation is very nearly as bad.

And plus, since some models of Intellivision have hardwired controllers, they couldn’t even do something to give it a better controller, like the trackballs do for the 5200 and Colecovision. Oh well. I know there are stick-replacement options out there, and some modern controller options as well, but controller ports would have made that a lot easier. Oh well.

Beyond the very flat-topped controllers, to fit with its flat, sleek look, the Intellivision, uniquely, has its cartridge port on the side of the console. This is good for aesthetics, but bad for everyday use, because you need to press fairly hard to get a game to lock in to the system! I find that I need to hold the console with one hand on the left side while pressing the cart in on the right in order to insert a game, so don’t put this console somewhere where you don’t have access to both sides of the system, it won’t end up well. Of course, with how short Intellivision controllers are you won’t be putting it far from your chair, anyway. All the pre-crash consoles have very short controller cords, and this is no exception. Some models do have controller ports, though. The model 1 and 3 Intellivision have hard-wired controllers, while the Sears Super Video Arcade and model 2 have controller ports.  Sears Super Video Arcade controllers also have regular straight cords, while model 1 Intellivisions have a coiled cable like a phone does.  The straight wire gets you some more length, and when cords are this short you take anything you can get!  I have perhaps the best overall model of Intellivision according to some Atari Age threads I read, the Sears Super Video Arcade. It’s a nice looking console with controller ports, and I’m glad to have this one. It still works perfectly, even after almost forty years.  I may get controller extension cords for it at some point, if I want to move it farther away.

As far as its game library went, the Intellivision’s main life lasted from 1979 to 1983. Most of the games are from Mattel, and they are mostly original titles, not ports of arcade games. Atari had most of the best arcade games themselves, after all, and Mattel, like Magnavox, decided to mostly make their own games. Mattel did get one companies’ arcade game rights, though: Data East. This led to one of the system’s best games, and several others as well.  That’s it, though.  Coleco would take a different path.  Once they entered Coleco would be much more aggressive at getting arcade game rights, and between Coleco and Atari, Mattel and the others didn’t get many arcade ports. The quality of Mattel’s own games is uneven, too, as my summaries below will detail.  I found a lot of games for this system locally in a short time, but the game quality is iffy in too many cases.

And then, in late 1983, with the great videogame crash of ’83 destroying the console industry, Mattel gave up on videogames and discontinued the system. Others, including the Magnavox Odyssey 2, were also discontinued around the same time. However, some people at Mattel thought that the system had a future as a low-cost system, and bought the rights to the Intellivision sometime later. In 1985, the first two new games released in Europe. Those two games, plus some other new ones, released in the US as well in 1986, and the new Intv Corporation kept the system alive with new game releases until 1989. This is a fairly similar story to the Atari 2600, which was effectively discontinued in 1984, only to be resurrected in 1986, so it saw releases from 1977-1984 and 1986-1990 (’92 in Europe thanks to one or two late third-party releases there). However, at least around here, I regularly see some of those late Atari 2600 games. I have not seen any post-1983 Intellivision games locally yet, only these 40 games from ’83 or earlier, so clearly the Intellivision wasn’t as popular a post-crash console as the Atari. That makes sense, but it’s still interesting that it was brought back, and there are some good-looking games among those later releases that I would like to get eventually.

Overall though, my first impression of the Intellivision is that it’s okay. This system isn’t awful or anything, but I don’t really like it either. I can understand how people who played it as a kid would still like the system, but as someone who didn’t play any pre-crash console games until decades later, as I said earlier it probably does rank fifth of the five pre-crash systems I have. (For the record, based purely on ‘how much I like them’ and not their overall game library quality or such, right now that ranking would be: 1. Odyssey 2; 2. Atari 5200;3. Atari 2600; 4. Colecovision; 5. Intellivision.) The poor controller is definitely a part of that, though the games are also a part; they’re alright, but I haven’t found many I really love. Right now I don’t know if I have yet played an Intellivision game that I’d give an A rating to. Some of the games are good, though, certainly. That said, though, here are the first 20 Intellivision Game Opinion Summaries. The second 20 shouldn’t take as long as these did to finish.

My favorite Intellivision games so far

1. Snafu
2. BurgerTime
3. Demon Attack
4. Microsurgeon
5. Loco-Motion
6. Atlantis

I like these six more than the rest of the games I have for sure, so far.

 

The Summaries

Formatting: As usual for my Game Opinion Summary lists, the title is first.  Following that, in italics is the number of players, and any accessories supported or required.  Next is the summary.  At the end, again in italics, I list any other platforms the game has been released on as of this posting, as far as I know.


ABPA Backgammon One or two players alternating. Backgammon is a typical Intellivision game in some ways. The Intellivision sold itself on being more complex than the Atari 2600, and indeed this game is more complex than Atari Backgammon. The graphics are better, game much more accurate to the boardgame it is a conversion of, and controls more complex as well thanks to the systems’ 12-key keypad. Getting used to the controls takes a little while, as it uses the keypad heavily, but this is a solid Backgammon game, if you actually want to play such a thing on an old console; I don’t really. On a positive note though, there is an AI opponent here, a somewhat uncommon thing for a boardgame console game from 1978! However, I’ve never cared much for backgammon as a board game. I have played it before, and it’s alright, but it has been a very long time since I last played the game, and while I don’t remember a lot of the rules, and doubt I’ll play it anytime soon either; far better games are available now. Backgammon has dice, so it has a random component not present in the timeless classic that is chess. Random elements in board games are common, and can work great, but I do think that the best games are probably less random. So, while this game definitely looks the part, with a clearly drawn backgammon board and dice, if I really wanted to play backgammon today I’m sure far better games are available on newer systems than this one. I don’t play old consoles for games like this, for the most part. But if you want a solid 2nd-gen backgammon game, well, here it is.  This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections under the title Backgammon.


Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Cartridge (aka AD&D Cloudy Mountain Adventure or Crown of Kings) – One player. This game has the D&D license, but it isn’t really an RPG. Instead, this is a maze exploration action-adventure game, building off of games like Adventure (Atari 2600), Hunt the Wumpus (TI-99/4A), and Quest for the Rings (Odyssey 2). Your goal here is to reach the Cloudy Mountain across the main world map and find the treasures within. You start on the let side of the screen, and at certain points enter dungeons. Each of these dungeons is a randomly laid out maze you will need to explore. Now, sort of like Hunt the Wumpus, your character here is an archer, so you’ll be shooting enemies from a distance if you want to stay alive. This is a much more action-heavy game than that one, though. You will see monsters as you explore, and need to decide how to deal with them. In each maze, you need to collect arrows, kill or run away from monsters, and look for both exits and key items that you will need to progress. You’ll want to avoid enemies some of the time because ammo is very limited, and you can’t just go pick up used arrows. This definitely serves to increase the tension as you explore. Unfortunately, I find the game quite frustrating, as these random mazes, while not huge, are just large enough to get lost in. You need to find those exits and key items, but wandering around, looking for things while often not being certain if I’ve been through this area five times already because it all looks pretty similar, isn’t much fun.

Now, some people like this kind of game design, and I recommend you play this game! I, however, don’t really. There is a run button for faster movement, and that’s great. Even, but still, this game aimed high for a game from 1982, and for the time is a quite advanced game despite not being what we would today call an RPG of any kind since there is no experience points system present, but I think I’d prefer something either simpler or more complex than this. AD&D is a good game, but while I probably do like it more than Adventure on the Atari 2600, I’d rather play Quest for the Rings or Hunt the Wumpus than this, their simplicity is a positive for games from this time. Still, AD&D is a solid evolution of the still-early action-adventure genre, as it headed towards better things. The Intellivision sold itself as a more complex console with better-looking and more complicated games than other consoles, and you see that here. That doesn’t make the game better, but still it is an interesting game worth playing. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections under the title ” Crown of Kings”.


Armor Battle – Two players simultaneous. Two Player Only Game.   The Intellivision does Combat! Yes, this is one of several Combat knockoffs on the Intellivision. Like Combat it, unfortunately, requires two players, so I haven’t really been able to play it. Most people agree it’s not as good as Combat, though. It’s got better graphics but apparently lesser gameplay, though I haven’t really played much Combat either so I can’t really compare. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Astrosmash – One or two player alternating. Astrosmash is a very simple single-screen shooting game that kind of crosses Astroids and Space Invaders, though without the greatness of either. This popular game is also on Atari 2600 and it’s very simple: move left and right and shoot the asteroids as they descend. That’s about it. Move left, move right, shoot as many rocks as you can. There are also a few ships to shoot, but it’s mostly falling rocks. This game was made for overlong play sessions, by second gen standards — you start with quite a few lives, and will not lose them easily for a long time. And on top of that, the game gives you extra lives so quickly that games will go on and on. You get lives faster than you lose them for probably at least a half hour or more. I find the game gets boring long before that, unfortunately; the core concept is solid and the game plays well enough, apart from the usual issues with how uncomfortable this controller is, but the difficulty balance and challenge are way off. The game looks alright, with some decently nice asteroids and an alright backdrop, but is very repetitive and simplistic. So, overall, this game is another average to below average Intellivision game. This system is definitely living down to its mostly not-great reputation, I think… too bad. There is something here, later in the game, but is it worth the tedium to get there? Also on Atari 2600 under the title Astroblast. That version is quite similar, apart from a graphical downgrade of course. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


AtlantisOne player. Atlantis is a Missile Command-inspired defense game from Imagic, a third party who released a lot of games on the Intellivision in 1982-1983. Taking control of gun turrets, you try to protect the city of Atlantis from an endless horde of enemy spacecraft. It’s a doomed effort of course, but try to survive as long as you can anyway! The Intellivision version of Atlantis has a reputation for being the best version of the game and one of the better games on this console, and after playing it I can see why. Now, in Missile Command, you control a cursor. In the original Atari version of this game, however, instead you just controlled three gun cannons which each shot across the screen at a different angle. On the Intellivision, however, Imagic went for a much more directly Missile Command-inspired game, as you move a cursor around the screen and fire from your two guns with the two buttons on each side of the controller.

So yes, it’s pretty much straight Missile Command, but with Atlantis graphics. And indeed, the game looks pretty good, with a detailed cityscape, a day and night cycle with a tougher challenge at night in the dark, and good enemy sprites. The game adds one signficant control feature that separates it from Issile Command, though: by hitting one of the keypad buttons, you can take off in a little plane usually kept docked in the center tower on the screen and, controlling it directly, shoot the enemies down, Defender style! This is a single-screen game, but flying the little ship around, shooting in both directions to take out the enemies, is pretty fun. Indeed, both the cursor and flying elements of this game are fun. The game does take a while to get challenging on the default setting so games are not short, however; yes, this is another game with difficulty balance that may not be ideal. However, it’s more than fun enough to be worth playing anyway, every once in a while at least. Atlantis is, like most games of the era, very repetitive and does not match Missile Command’s genius, but it is a good game for sure, and this is a great version. It may not be worth getting an Intellivision just for this game, but if you have one definitely get the game, it’s one of the best ones here. Also on Atari 2600 and Odyssey 2, though each version is quite different.


Auto RacingOne or two player simultaneous.  Single player is a time-trial only race. This is an overhead racing game. It has decently nice graphics with some nice looking roads and houses. It scrolls decently too, it’s not single screen. There are even a bunch of different tracks to race! They are all made up of a set of components, but still it is impressive. Graphically, it’s pretty good for the time — the Atari doesn’t have any top-down racing games that look anywhere near as good. However, gameplay is a problem. The controls are hard to get used to, it takes practice and perhaps also a look at the manual before you will figure out how to actually make the turns and not just go off the side at every corner. Looking at impressions people have of this game online, this seems to be a common complaint about this game: the controls are confusing and not that good. With some practice I did eventually manage to start making turns, but even then this is a slow-paced game with limited gameplay. The turns feel hard because of the bad handling, not because they really should be. Additionally, as with many Intellivision games, this one is mostly designed for two players — all you can do in this game is play a two player versus mode race, or play solo in a time-trial mode, that’s it. There isn’t an AI opponent car, unfortunately. For 1980 this is probably a good effort at a more realistic racing game, but the controls, with the Intellivision disc, are a problem. I didn’t find Auto Racing very fun, but it isn’t a bad game, just a flawed one. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


B-17 Bomber – One player, IntelliVoice addon required. B-17 Bomber is a flight simulator, a fairly impressive thing for an early ’80s game. With complex controls, where you can switch between different stations on your World War II bomber to change between shooting enemy planes, bombing, choosing where you’re going, and such, it’s an advanced game for the time. Unfortunately, it requires the IntelliVoice speech synthesizer addon. The game will run without it, but it has voice lines telling you vital info, so the game isn’t very playable without one, and I don’t have an IntelliVoice yet. However, even if I had one, I can’t see myself getting into this game much at all; it may be impressive for the time, but in retrospect this kind of game quickly becomes horribly dated, and I’m not a flight sim fan regardless. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Beauty & The Beast – One player. One of Imagic’s more popular Intellivision games, this game is Intellivision exclusive and not a port from another system. Imagic supported the Intellivision pretty well for a couple of years. However, I don’t like it nearly as much as I was hoping. The game looks nice, but the gameplay is lacking, I think. Anyway, Beauty & The Beast is one of the many games heavily inspired by Nintendo’s hit Donkey Kong. Thanks to Coleco the Intellivision version of Donkey Kong is no good, but this somewhat similar game is probably better. Unfortunately, I think it has problems as well. The game is no match for arcade Donkey Kong. My biggest problem with this game is its jumping controls. So, in the game, your goal is to get to the top of each screen. Each screen is a couple of floors tall, and you want to get to the top of each screen, which helps you climb the building to try to save the girl (the beauty) from the beast (an ape as expected). Unfortunately you’re facing an endless series of buildings here, so you can never really win. You can climb from one floor to the next by hitting Up on the circle when one of the windows on each floor is open. If you’re still climbing when the window closes, you’ll fall and die, so be careful. I don’t know why you can climb up when windows are open but not when they are closed, but that’s how it works here. Your movement controls feel fast, as you zip around the screen, trying to avoid obstacles and go up open windows. However, when you need to jump over something, as I said the controls are very stiff and bad. I really don’t like the jumping controls here, and they don’t feel good at all; when I have to jump I often die. The jumping here feels somewhat like it does in Dragonfire, except here it’s even more central to the game. The simplistic and repetitious gameplay is expected from this time, but that’s fine if a game is good. Sadly, only part of Beauty & The Beast is fun. I know this game has fans, but I’m not one, so far at least; I think that this game is below average, and I can only really recommend it for the graphics, which are admittedly pretty nice and detailed.


Bomb Squad – One player, IntelliVoice required. Another one of the four games requiring the IntelliVoice speech synthesizer, this one is a bomb-defusing puzzle game where you follow voice commands as you try to defuse each bomb by cutting the correct wires and installing the correct parts in places on the circuit. Naturally, without an IntelliVoice it’s quite impossible, though it looks very difficult on the higher difficulty settings even with one. The game has a good concept though, so when I get an IntelliVoice I’ll definitely want to give it a try. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Bowling (aka PBA Bowling) – One to four players alternating. One player is a solo game, no AI. Bowling is a pretty good bowling game for the early ’80s. Showing off all of those buttons that the Intellivision controller has, Bowling has more commands than the simplistic Atari 2600 Bowling game. You can move up and down, aim and curve your shot, and adjust power. You even can select your ball weight at the start, and that does affect the game. Visually, this is a fairly standard effort, with okay but not amazing visuals of the lane and pins. It’s an okay-looking game with a lot more depth than bowling on the 2600, so it fits in with the general ‘more complex games’ theme the Intellivision went for, and it does seem to be good. Of course there is no AI so if you’re playing by yourself it’s a solo affair, but oh well. Bowling plays well and is fun, so it is a good game. Once you get used to the controls it’s a simple little game, and much better bowling games are out there on newer systems, but this one’s fun enough to play once in a while. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


BurgerTimeOne player. BurgerTime was an arcade hit in the early ’80s. Mattel wasn’t able to get the rights to many popular arcade games, as Atari had the best ones and Coleco got the rights to most of the better remaining arcade games of note, but Mattel did get the rights to one arcade company’s arcade games, Data East. The somewhat strange single-screen platformer BurgerTime was probably their biggest hit, so it was ported to the Intellivision. This game is highly regarded on Intellivision, but I wasn’t sure how worth it this would be since I do have the even better NES version. Well, it was worth getting, because yes this is a pretty good version of this game. The somewhat slow Intellivision CPU isn’t known for being great at fast action games, but this somewhat unique platformer runs very well. For anyone who dosn’t know it, in BurgerTime you play as chef Peter Pepper, and try to make giant hamburgers before living ingredients get you! Yeah, it’s weird. So, you go around, dodging enemies on the maze of platforms, while trying to walk over all burger parts. When you walk over a part, it’ll fall down to the next floor below, dropping other parts below it if there is another one on the next level. Each burger has several parts to drop, including the top bun, lettuce, and burger. Once you make all burgers on a stage you go on to the next one. You also have pepper spray, which will temporarily stun an enemy. The only other way to defeat enemies is that when you drop a burger part, any enemies also standing on that part when you drop it will die. They respawn elsewhere on screen quickly, though, so you can’t get rid of enemies for good, you just need to learn to avoid them. BurgerTime is a fun and challenging game, and it’s easy to see why it was so successful. BurgerTime is, indeed, one of the best games I’ve played on Intellivision. There are better versions of the game so don’t get an Intellivision for this game, but if you have one, get it. Arcade port, also on the Atari 2600, NES, and many other platforms, though none are ports of this specific version.


Demon Attack One player. Demon Attack is another game from Imagic, and it’s one of their most popular games. This single-screen shmup sees you moving left and right on a screen, shooting up at enemies moving around above. It was inspired by the arcade game Phoenix which Atari had the rights to, enough so that Atari sued Imagic over this game and Imagic settled out of court, so they probably paid Atari something. I think that Demon Attack isn’t quite as great as the arcade or Atari 2600 versions of Phoenix, but it is also good and is on a lot more platforms. Demon Attack for the Intellivision has the same basic gameplay as the original Atari 2600 version of the game, but it has enhanced graphics and more gameplay, much like the TI 99/4A version but, by all accounts, better. Like that version, the game has two screens, one on a planet or moon where you do most of the shooting, and a boss stage in space against a giant ship. The planet is nicely detailed, so the background looks a lot better than the very simple Atari version.

The core gameplay is the same, though, apart from that added boss screen. Demon Attack plays well, as you move left and right and try to time your shots to hit the quickly-moving demons. It presents a good challenge, and there is nice variety as there are quite a few different types of demons on the regular screen. The boss stage mixes things up as well; here you need to hit a single point to destroy the giant demon ship, but hitting that point will be hard, as it’s protected by a moving shield and lots of small demons that are sent at you. This game is well paced and fun, and keeps you coming back. Of course the Intellivision circle disc thing makes playing the game a little harder than it should be, but you kind of get used to it eventually. I don’t know if it’s the best version of this game, but it is good. However, whenever I play this game, I can’t help but think that I’d rather be playing Phoenix, because that game is a bit better. Still, Demon Attack is a good game well worth playing on any format it was released for. Also on Atari 2600, Magnavox Odyssey 2, TI 99/4A, Atari 8-bit computers, PC, Commodore 64, and TRS-80 Color Computer. Each version is different, but this is one of the best.


DragonfireOne player.  Dragonfire is another Imagic game.  This one’s much less impressive, though, as it is pretty much just a straight, only graphically enhanced port of the Atari 2600 game of the same name.  Dragonfire is a good Atari game, though, so that could work well.  In this two-screen game, you first run across a bridge as a little guy, dodging fireballs as you go platformer-style, and then run around a large overhead-view space, collecting treasures while avoiding more fireballs that the dragon, now on screen, shoots at you.  It’s a fast-paced game, all about dodging and jumping and then avoiding and collecting, and it’s okay to good on the 2600.  Here, however, it feels worse.  The graphics are improved, as the drawbridge and castle towers on the sidescroller stage look nicer and the dragon and its treasures are drawn with more detail, but the difference isn’t enough to matter much.

Much more important are the controls, and they’re not good. Yes, the controls are a whole lot worse because you need to try to make these tricky, timing-sensitive jumps with the Intellivision disc! This controller is hard to deal with even in ideal circumstances, and this games’ jumping is, like Beauty & The Beast above, far from ideal. So, while I do find this game fun on the 2600 as the avoid-and-collect gameplay is somewhat addictive and fun, I’d recommend sticking to that version. It’s the same thing, but better. The Intellivision version is too hard thanks to its controller to be worth the hassle, and has no additions to counteract that, unlike the better Imagic Intellivision games. Also on Atari 2600, Colecovision, Commodore 64, Commodore VIC-20, Apple II, and TRS-80 Color Computer. The 2600 version is the original. This is nowhere near that level.


Frog Bog – One or two player simultaneous. Also known as Frogs and Flies on 2600, Frog Bog is one of Mattel’s more popular games, and Mattel did release it on Atari 2600 as well as Intellivision under the name Frogs and Flies. This is an extremely simple arcade-style game where you play as a frog, jumping between two lily pads to eat flies as they go by. You cannot move around on the ground; for some reason, these frogs can only move in the air, not on the ground. So, you press on the disc to jump in the direction you press. The disc gives you better control than the Atari 2600 version of the game. You can control your jump, so try to aim and time it so that you’re in the air while flies are passing by. While in the air, hit a side button to extend your tongue, hopefully catching flies in the process. That’s all there is to it. There is even an automatic tongue option, for somewhat easier play. You just jump back and forth, eating flies, for a while. As the game progresses time passes, from morning to afternoon to night, and once full night falls the game ends. So, Frog Bog games are time-limited and might last ten minutes at most. That’s good, though, because by the time a game ends I’m ready to play something else, there isn’t much to this one. Even so, the time progression is a nice touch you only infrequently saw at the time. The background graphics are pretty nice as well, with a detailed pond environment. The game also does have an AI opponent, so it’s not two player only, and there are two difficulty settings. On the default setting the AI is extremely easy, but the harder setting presents a slightly higher challenge. The AI really is a very weak opponent though, so if you want to lose this game much at all you’ll need to play it against another human. I like that they included a computer opponent, but I wish it was a bit tougher.

In comparison to the Atari 2600 version, the graphics are much more detailed on Intellivision, as expected. The Atari version looks okay for the console, but everything is a lot blockier. The core gameplay is identical, and the controls are good on Atari too — it compensates for the loss of a 16-direction stick by having you hold the stick to change your angle. This control scheme is simple and works well. It’s probably easier to control your frog on Atari than Intellivision as a result, so despite the better graphics in this version, Mattel might actually have made a better game on the competing console. On either platform, though, overall Frog Bog is an average game. It’s probably worth getting on one system or another because it is quite cheap and can be fun, particularly for two players, but don’t expect too much from this one. Also on Atari 2600 under the name Frogs and Flies. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Golf (Tele-Games ver. of PGA Golf) – One or two player alternating. One player is a solo game, no AI.  This golf game is a bit like Golf for the Atari 2600, but with a lot more simmish elements. Where the 2600 or Odyssey 2’s golf games are pretty much minigolf games by another name, Intellivision Golf plays more like the real thing, with different clubs to switch between, a more complex meter for hitting your ball, and such. The graphical look is similar to those games but a better, as just like them each hole is shown in a single-screen overhead view. The graphics are definitely better than those games, as trees are identifiable and there are angled greens and everything, but it’s still a single-screen game. The animating ball, which gets larger at the height of its flight, does look nice though. The more simmish controls make this game much more challenging than those golf games, however, and for someone like me who does not like golf, that’s not really a good thing. This is probably a better game objectively than Atari or O2 Golf, but I find myself getting bored extremely quickly here and would probably rather play either of those games. I much prefer mini-golf to regular golf, myself. Golf fans might want to try this game out though, as it’s quite possibly the first semi-realistic take on the sport. You will need to choose the correct club for each hit and such. It’s a challenging game for sure. There is only one 18-hole course here, as usual for the time, but each hole is unique. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack (Tele-Games ver.) – Two players only (Poker); One or two players (Blackjack). For some reason I do not understand, this card game was the pack-in title with the Intellivision for its first few years. It’s not a game I have much of any interest in playing, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that, so it’s a somewhat strange choice for a pack-in. The games are fairly complex for the time, with three different poker variants and blackjack all on the cart, playable in 1 or 2 player for blackjack and 2 player only for poker, but I don’t like this kind of game at all and don’t want to play enough of this to learn how to play it, so even though I do have a complete copy with its detailed instruction book I don’t know that I will ever play this again. It’s fine, and probably even impressive, for the genre for the time, but I do not know how to play or want to learn poker. Plus, poker here requires two players, so even if I did want to try, I can’t really. While I do know blackjack, and this is a totally acceptible blackjack game, it’s not that much better than similar games on the Atari 2600 or Odyssey 2, and today there are a great many far better ways to play electronic blackjack than here, not that I want to do that almost ever. Overall, for me at least, this has to be one of the weakest and least interesting pack-in games ever to come with a console. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Lock ‘n ChaseOne player. Most Intellivision games are exclusive to the console. However, Mattel did get the rights to one companies’ arcade games, Data East, and made several home ports of their games. The good Pac-Man clone Lock ‘n Chase is one of those games, so it is one of the few arcade to Intellivision conversions. Most of the others are also Data East games. In this game you are a thief, trying to steal as much as you can before the police catch you. So, Lock ‘n Chase is like Pac-Man, but with the new component of doors that you can close. At certain choke points in the maze, if you hit a button a door will close off that path for a set amount of time. You’ll need to strategically use this ability to try to get all of the dots in each stage. As usual on the Intellivision, the graphics are low resolution, so everything is near eachother, and keeping away from your enemies is hard. Like the original Pac-Man, the maze is always the same, but unlike that game the difficulty here is steep from the beginning! Indeed, getting far into Lock ‘n Chase will take practice, this game is tough. This is probably a good port of the arcade game, but while it is good enough, this game is no Pac-Man, and isn’t as good as games like K.C. Munchkin or Turtles on Odyssey 2 either. This is a quality game worth playing if you like maze games, but between the high difficulty, mediocre graphics, and sometimes tricky controls for using the locks, I doubt I’ll be playing a huge amount of it. Still, it is a decently good game I guess. Arcade port, also on the Atari 2600. The Atari version has much worse graphics as you would expect, but plays similarly. I like the later Game Boy sequel, also called Lock ‘n Chase, a lot more; that game is pretty good. I covered it in my Game Boy Game Opinion Summaries article.


Loco-MotionOne player. Loco-Motion is a puzzle game with gameplay inspired by sliding tile puzzles. The game screen is simple, a 5 by 5 grid of tiles with various train track layouts on them fills most of the screen, and curving loop pieces go off of the sides of the grid around the edges. You move pieces into the blank space in the grid, so you effectively move a black square around with reversed controls. On this grid, a single train car is always moving around. Your goal on each stage is to get it to go around all of the loops on the edges of the screen, beyond the bounds of the 5×5 grid you have control over. In order to do this, you need to move the tiles around so that the car goes around all of the edges. That’s not all, though, that alone would be far too simple! No, you also have a time limit. If you take too long to go around some loops, they will lock off and send an enemy train at you. This removes the loop from the stage without you getting points for it, while also adding a major obstacle to avoid, another train moving around the stage that you’ll need to keep away from the main one!

Yes, Loco-Motion has a simple concept, but it quickly gets very difficult. This game has a great concept and it’s mostly well executed; Loco-Motion is one of the best games I have for Intellivision. It does have some issues, however. First and foremost, the game is very slow paced. The train you’re leading around moves slowly, and the only speed-adjustment button isn’t very useful. You will spend a lot of time in this game waiting, as you watch the train slowly move along its route. Additionally, those reversed controls take getting used to. I get the idea, instead of moving the black square around you are moving the tiles into or out of it, but the game almost makes more sense if you hold your controller upside down, which is a little weird. I kind of wish they let you choose between regular and reversed control options. Still, despite the very slow gameplay, with challenging puzzles and a unique concept, Loco-Motion is a pretty good game and definitely is a game that any Intellivision owner should get. It’s one of the better Intellivision exclusives, the system does this kind of slower, more strategic game well.


Major League Baseball (1980) – Two Player Simultaneous. Two Players Required.  Major League Baseball is one of the early Intellivision games, and it is a title that Mattel advertised heavily as a part of their campaign to convince people to buy an Intellivision instead of an Atari. Like all baseball games at the time, it is a single-screen game which fits a downsized version of a baseball field onto one screen, and is two player only, there is no AI opponent. Later Intellivision baseball titles would add AI opponents, but this first one, which is by far the most common, doesn’t have one. That’s too bad, because as a result I won’t have many chances to play this game. I like baseball, but don’t have many opportunities for local multiplayer anymore. This is a simple game, but it has more depth than 2600 Baseball for sure. There are actually nine players on screen, for one. You can also switch which player you are controlling with the keypad, which is nice. Additionally, while pitching you can try to pick off runners. When fielding it can be hard to tell where a ball is going to land though, there is no ball shadow or arc, it just moves in a straight line until it stops somewhere, hopefully with your fielder nearby. There is a sound giving you a hint at when it’s stopping, but good luck. When pitching you pretty much can just aim it left or right, so batting isn’t anywhere near as hard as in a newer baseball game. You do have multiple pitches, but still batting isn’t too hard. Overall, I can’t really say much about what I think about this game because I haven’t played it much, but sure, for a 1979 release this is somewhat impressive. Looking back flaws like the absence of fly balls and single player are pretty significant, though. This isn’t a game I’ll play much but I am glad to have it. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback Special Edition unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.

Part two will be next time, once I finish it.

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I discovered two “new” Genesis EEPROM games!

I know I said that I wouldn’t post updates to the Console Save Types list as threads this soon, but this one is far too interesting, and important, to leave as just an update in that thread.  I have also added this information to the article itself, which again can be found here: http://www.blackfalcongames.net/?p=147 but here is the update.

4/30/2019: After reading a review of Accolade’s Genesis game Summer Challenge, I noticed that the reviewer didn’t mention that the game saves. I know it does though, so this made me interested in how — is it a battery, or an EEPROM chip? Now, the two Accolade games previously mentioned here as having EEPROM chips now are “unconfirmed” at best, as the update to my source removed those two games, Barkley: Shut Up and Jam 2 and Unnecessary Roughness ’95. Unfortunately I don’t have those games to check, though I might get them to be sure. I know some Accolade games do have batteries, though; the Genesis Hardball games that save have batteries onboard. However, to my moderate surprise, Summer Challenge and Winter Challenge do not! No, they have EEPROM chips. To be precise, the chip is a KM28C16, apparently a Samsung EEPROM chip by what I can find about it online. Summer Challenge has a KM28C16-15, and Winter Challenge a KM28C16-20. (I have two copies of Winter Challenge and they both have the same chip in them.) Doing some searching I see nowhere online that mentions that either of these games use an EEPROM, so this is very interesting stuff to learn! The games save your settings and best times or scores in the events. I actually quite like these games, unlike most people, and this is one more reason why they’re interesting. Oh, and I removed Populous from the list of Turbografx/PC Engine games with a battery, because it doesn’t have one, that is an old rumor. I didn’t realize that was still on the list or I would have removed it long ago.

 

So yeah, I found two new Genesis games that save to EEPROMs, hiding in plain sight in my collection!  Accolade’s Genesis games requires a special security screwdriver bit to open, essentially a star bit with a pinhole in the center since there is a pin sticking out of the center of the screw, but i have one of those screwdrivers so I can open up the carts, and I finally did so recently. I had previously assumed that Summer and Winter Challenge both used battery save, like the rest of Accolade’s Genesis games that save, but nope, they have EEPROMs instead.  That’s very cool!  I like these games, and this makes me like them even more; these won’t have their batteries die like so many other classic cartridge games have.  Once I manage to take a clear picture, I will update this post with a photo of the board.  Unfortunately all the ones I’ve tried to take so far have been blurry.

Update (5/5/19): Sorry for the delay, but here’s a picture of the board for one of the two games, Winter Challenge.  Hopefully it’s legible.  The EEPROM chip is the one in the upper left.

 

As for other updates on this site, I’m sorry that my still-upcoming new Game Opinion Summaries list isn’t done yet.  I really should be working on that a lot more to get it finished up…

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Major Console Save Types List Update

I spent quite a while today working on some updates to one of my more important works on this site and elsewhere, my Console Save Types list article that you can find here: http://www.blackfalcongames.net/?p=147

Here is a copy of the complete changelog for the new update to the article.  I will probably continue to look up some thing for this article, but may not make new home-page articles for those updates if they happen soon.  See this page or the original article for what’s new, I will continue to keep a thorough changelog.

4/19/2019: It’s been a while, but here are a bunch of updates and fixes.  Expect more in the future.  First, I found a newer (fall 2010) revision of the Genesis EEPROM games guide that I had previously missed.  The guide is offline on its original site, but I found a backup on the Internet Archive and link that now.  Both the older and newer revisions of the guide are there, and both are linked.   The main changes are that the second version removes three games, Unnecessary Roughness ’95, Barkley: Shut Up and Jam! 2, and Blockbuster World Championship 2, which probably actually use battery-backed SRAM; and adds four games, John Madden Football ’93, John Madden Football ’93 Championship Edition, Ninja Burai Densetsu, and Honoo no Toukyuuji Dodge Danpei, along with the Meganet Modem cartridge.  I know there are other dead links in the Links section, but sadly that is the way of the internet. I fixed some, but I recommend trying web.archive.org to look for any now-dead pages. Additionally, I found two old updates to this list from 2010 and 2012 that I had forgotten about and only posted on the NeoGAF version of this list, which otherwise is very out of date and won’t be updated.  They have been added to the list, so the Virtual Boy is now on the list, and there is a little more PC-FX info as well.  See 9/24/10 and 7/24/12 above for more.  I also added bullet points to the table of contents.  Additionally, I just discovered that four Game Gear baseball games use 128 byte EEPROM chips.  This has been added to the list, with source links.  I also added the Nintendo Switch to the list.  It has a trickle charge clock and flash memory cards.  Also, I worked on and improved many sections, particularly the TurboGrafx-16/ PC Engine, PC-FX, Genesis, CD-i, Wii, Wii U, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.  The CD-i changes are particularly noteworthy — I added in some missing details for battery types and save sizes that I know, with new links at the bottom to match.  The details I know on the batteries in non-NVRAM CD-i consoles are now on the list.  Some of the more important new links go to internal board images of one of those, the DVS VE-200 CD-i, and the board inside the PC-FX BMP.  Unfortunately I cannot identify either battery based just on these images, but they are very valuable nonetheless.  And finally for this update, I was wrong in my previous update (2014) when I said that the Wii U was the first Nintendo system with a user-replaceable clock battery.  In fact the Wii is.  This has been added, along with a link showing it.

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Screenshots and Memories Sidestory: My Few World of Warcraft and Phantasy Star Online Screenshots

I am working on a game opinion summaries / first impressions article for my newest (old) console, the Intellivision.  It shouldn’t take too long, but in the interim, though, how about this thing?  Working on my Guild Wars screenshot series has made me look for old screenshots I’ve taken of other games, but unfortunately I took almost none.  I’ve never filmed myself playing games, and I only have a small handful of images of high scores and such I’ve taken, my many hundreds of Guild Wars images, and a few others, including the ones in this post and some from the Guild Wars 2 betas.  Those latter ones are for another time.

Online RPGs have been around for decades.  Apart from a few games such as Cavequest, Castle of the Winds, and Quest for Glory I, however, for the most part I did not play RPGs in the ’90s on our PCs; I mostly stuck to platformers, strategy games, shmups, racing games, adventure games, and such.  As for console RPGs, I wouldn’t be at all interested in those until the ’00s.  I love Quest for Glory, but it didn’t get me to play other RPGs; that is a somewhat unique  game series, being a hybrid of RPG and adventure.   When Baldur’s Gate released in 1998, however, this changed.  I had an interest in Dungeons & Dragons, though I hadn’t played much of the pen and paper game, but the mid ’90s were not a good time for D&D games; there had been good ones earlier on, SSI’s Gold Box series particularly, but I didn’t play those in the early ’90s, and they probably would have been too much for me anyway.  Anyway, Baldur’s Gate interested me in a way that RPGs hadn’t before, so I wanted to play it, but not so badly that I was going to spend $50 for the game.  Unfortunately it didn’t have a free demo, so, I bought the retail expanded demo version, Baldur’s Gate Chapters I & II.  I liked that, so I bought the full game in ’99.  I loved the game a lot and it’s still a favorite of mine, but I must admit I never finished it; it’s pretty non-linear, and after wandering around in the forests a lot I eventually lost interest.  It’s a great game I mean to play someday, though.  I usually have preferred a somewhat more linear, directed experience over a very open-ended one.  I also don’t care much at all about loot and don’t play games a game just to get better items or “collect them all”, and I do not like grinding experience either.  I also quite dislike crafting unless it’s very simple.  I love history and the middle ages has always been my favorite historical period, but while I like some RPGs, I’ve never loved the genre as much as some do.

And that gets us to MMORPGs.  Right from when I first heard of them, I wasn’t all that interested in actually playing online RPGs myself not only because I wasn’t a big RPG fan but also because the kinds of games they are run directly against what I like in games — they are all open-ended, with an endgame where loot is often your main draw, after all.  So, for years I did not play them.  By 2004, however, I was interested enough that I wanted to try some… and then there was that Guild Wars alpha test in May 2004, with a no-monthly-fee game made by former Blizzard developers, my favorite game studio then thanks to their amazing RTSes!  I had to try it, and the rest was history, as the Guild Wars Screenshots and Memories series shows.  In a lot of ways Guild Wars is exactly the kind of online RPG I’d love!  It has very little to no required grinding and a low level cap, loot is heavily de-emphasized except as a visual thing, the game has a main path that follows a series of linear missions, there is a very satisfying mapping component as you reveal the map, and gameplay is complex and strategic in some level, and isn’t just mindless button-mashing.  It also looks great, has no monthly fees, and ran relatively well on my computer’s then-aging GeForce 2 GTS graphics card.

However, Guild Wars was not out yet, and the public tests were sporadic.  So, in the interim, I tried a bit of a few other mostly free online RPGs, including Saga of Ryzom, ArchLord, a very small amount of Anarchy Online, and, at the end of 2004, the open beta for Blizzard’s World of Warcraft.  A little later, in 2006, I would also try Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst, the PC version of the Dreamcast classic Phantasy Star Online.  All these games reinforced all of the reasons why regular MMORPGs do not interest me all that much; they’re fine games, but just aren’t for me.  I would continue trying them every once in a while, however.  Unfortunately I can’t find any screenshots I took in any of them, not from 2004-2005 at least.  I do, however, have some shots from a little later, from when I bought World of Warcraft when it was on sale in 2006 and played it for a month.

Of those games, the most successful is of course World of Warcraft.  Because I was a huge Blizzard fan at the time, particularly of their RTSes  — though the game would prove to be the end of that — I did try World of Warcraft when Blizzard had an open beta for the game in late 2004 just before its release.  Comparing it to the Guild Wars betas I was playing so much of at that time, WoW had worse graphics, worse art design, significantly worse performance and framerates, and much less interesting, much more solo-focused gameplay.  And on top of all that, Blizzard wanted users to pay a $15 monthly fee to play their game, while Guild Wars had no fees beyond buying the box!  I liked pretty much everything about Guild Wars a lot better and never considered buying WoW when it released soon afterwards.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I took any screenshots during that beta, but I remember making a couple of characters and wandering around and such.  So, this article starts later, in 2006, when I played the game again and did take some screenshots.  The article has three parts, in chronological order based on when the screenshots were taken.  First, Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst screenshots from summer 2006.  Second, World of Warcraft: Cataclysm screenshots also from summer 2006.  And last, my three screenshots from a PSO Blue Burst fan server from 2008.

Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst (June 2006)

 

Guild Wars aside, PC online RPGs formed a consistent formula by the late ’90s, typified by the influential classic EverQuest and, following it, World of Warcraft.  On consoles, however, a different online RPG was popular — Phantasy Star Online, first released on the Dreamcast, and its’ more action-heavy form of online RPG.  I did not have a Dreamcast during its life so I could not play it then, but when a demo of the PC version released some time later I did try that out.  I’d also tried a bit of a relatives’ copy of the Dreamcast game.  It seemed fun, but not quite enough so to buy for PC when the full PC version, PSO Blue Burst, released in Japan in 2004 and the US in 2005.  I did play Blue Burst in 2006, however, but didn’t stick with it.  Most of the screenshots below are from when I started a few characters in ’06.   The game is fun but very grindey.  The grind is part of my issue with it, but that it also had a monthly fee was definitely a part of why I didn’t play PSO more, I did not want to pay every month just for the privilege of playing a game I had already bought!  The game was shut down after a few years, but fan servers kept it running.

Compared to regular MMORPGs, PSO does some things I like more, and others less.  On the one hand, PSO follows a clear game progression path.  Each episode is made up of areas, and each area has a map to fight through, a bunch of quests to do in variations of that map, and eventually a boss at the end of each of the four parts of the game.  Unlike an MMORPG, PSO areas are very small in size, particularly in the first game; you fight in a series of rooms, essentially, defeating the monsters in each room before you move on to the next one.  It works, but you’ll go through each area over and over and over as you level up, and that gets old.  The game also very much rewards playing with other human players, as a solo player is at a definite disadvantage against the enemies and especially bosses while team have a much better shot. Your reward for all this?  Loot.  That’s not really what I want from a game.  I mean, I do like PSO, but the repetitious nature of its grind hasn’t kept me coming back, though I might someday; there are still fan servers for the game, after all.  Anyway, these are my screenshots from when I first tried PSO Blue Burst in 2006.  I played the game for a bit but stopped, again, in part because of the whole monthly fee thing.  So, this is all lower-level gameplay, but I took a decent number of screenshots.  This set has 19 images.

This sure looks familiar; like most of these shots, it’s from the first of PSO’s four areas. You’ll go through each area a lot, fighting the same handful of enemies over and over. Fortunately the core gameplay’s pretty good.

This character, like most of my PSO characters, is a FOnewearl, a mage type since that’s one of my favorite classes in games. The graphics are low poly, but it is a port of a Dreamcast game for 2000, so for that time it looks nice enough. It was dated looking by the time this PC version released in the West in 2005, though.

Because it was originally a console game, PSO Blue Burst still has a mostly gamepad-friendly interface, though you can of course play it with a keyboard and mouse. The ten numbers at the bottom are a customizable set of hotkeys, giving you quicker access to a bunch of abilities and items than you would have on console. Meanwhile, the larger set of four icons on the right is the console-style action interface, where you choose an action with one of a gamepads’ four action buttons, or equivalent keyboard keys, and can switch between two sets of four with another button or key. You also can see blue, red, and green arrows over some of the enemies. This shows which enemy you have targeted at the moment and with what. This game has fairly simple controls, but they work well, particularly on a computer where you have easy access to a keyboard; this game relies primarily on text chat, not voice, for talking to other human players. The on-screen interface looks like something designed for a console and the look of the text has an unmistakable ‘this game was not originally made for English characters’ look, but it’s a nice enough interface and works well.

And here I have pressed a key to activate one of those abilities, so the arrows over enemies have disappeared and the burning flames are there instead.

Here I’m attempting to fight the first area’s boss. Alone, at only level 8, it’s probably not going to go well…

PSO is divided into rooms. Once you kill all the enemies in a room, you are allowed to go to the next one. At a rooms’ entrance you can see enemies in the next room sometimes, but can’t fight them until you go in.

I should probably heal up if I can before moving on…

It looks like I survived! That’s always satisfying.

After an expedition, a trip to the medical center is advisable. After a death, well, this is where you end up…

Here is the games’ lobby area. This is the only part of PSO where you will see other human players — much like Guild Wars, the game has a massively-multiplayer component in the town(s), but once you go out of town and take on a mission, you’re either playing solo or with human party members. Unfortunately, unlike Guild Wars, as far as I know PSO does not have AI companions like Henchmen or Heroes. That’s too bad, it’d be great.

This part of the little town area has the shops in it where you can buy and sell items. You won’t necessarily get the best items and abilities from here, but as your source for healing items and basic skills they are invaluable. Guild Wars came up with a better plan, though, in how it makes consumable item use entirely optional; in a game like this you’re constantly spending money on healing items.

This low-poly but sharp look is distinctive of the Dreamcast and has held up fairly well. Of course this PC version has some visual enhancements over the original, but still, it’s a somewhat nice looking game. Anyway, here we’re looking at a portal that will warp us to the level’s boss, I believe.

You think? Anyway, this is the mission counter where you get important story quests.

Enrich your life? What is this, advertising for a cult or subscription service or something? Heh…

This cave area is a little farther into the game, beyond the green first level. This firey cavern is nice to see because after hours of that one green forest over and over, it’s great to finally see something different.

Here’s another part of the lobby, with human players clustering around the mission counter.

I tried a second character for a little while as well. This class uses guns, its more of a ranger type. Fun stuff. This enemy is annoying though, insect enemies keep coming out of the hive until you kill it…

… Leaving the medical center again, probably after a death? Yeah, you do that a lot in this game, particularly when playing solo…

And last, I took another shot of an attempt at the second level, the cave. Some time after this I decided to not pay the monthly fee to keep playing. It’s a good game but not monthly fee good, particularly for a college student with limited funds, which I was then…

 

World of Warcraft (from somewhere between late 2005 and July 2006)

 

I had played WoW, again, in the pre-release beta in late 2004, but as with the Guild Wars betas, characters were wiped before launch.  However, In November 2005 I got a 10-day key for WoW.  However, I don’t have screenshots or memories of playing the game then.  Instead, what I do have is a batch of screenshots dated to July 2006.  The dates on those files are probably wrong, but I’m not sure when these shots are from between those two dates.  This is probably when these screenshots are from.  I was never very interested in playing WoW, but because of its success and my past love for Blizzard, I gave it multiple tries, and these screenshots are from my second such attempt.   I did not buy the game anytime soon afterwards, but in 2010, when after the release of the Cataclysm expansion Blizzard sold the orgiinal WoW and its first few expansions for $5 each, I did buy the game.  I don’t think I have any screenshots from that month, however.  If I do, I haven’t found them.  I played the game for the month that came with the games, but did not subscribe, so I have not played WoW since 2010.  I am fine with that.

This time, however, I did take a handful of screenshots.  They are all from the starter areas and aren’t very interesting, but here are 15 screenshots anyway.

World of Warcraft looks better than this now since it has had visual overhauls, but this is how the game originally looked. I’m running it at only 800×600, lower than the rez I was using in Guild Wars by this point, because of the worse performance. I know I said it already, but framerates in this game were bad for me, despite the blocky and mediocre graphics. I mean, it has some solid art design, though not as great as Guild Wars’, but technically it’s not close to that game. Having to have a huge open world full of players must be holding this game back visually. That’s yet another reason that Guild Wars is better than WoW! Yes, sorry, I know WoW has a lot of fans, and I love Warcraft RPGs, but this game always seemed somewaht average to me… it was fine, but not compelling. If I could play it for only regular retail price I’d play it, but not for something requiring a monthly fee payment.

WoW NPCs don’t come close to GW ones either in art design, environment background design, or costume design. Well, to be fair, Guild Wars can be fairly accused of pretty much exclusively having supermodels for player characters. WoW’s characters are also sexualized and exaggerated, but it mgiht be less so than GW. But is it actually less so, or is it just that I so prefer GW’s art design? I think it might be as much of the latter as the former; I remember a controversy about how at some point early on WoW male Elves were changed to make them much buffer than they were originally planned, for example, in order to make them more like what the audience wanted — more attractive characters. Of course any discussion of art is purely subjective though, so there is no right answer here.

I made a couple of characters in the one month I played this game, and here’s one, a human mage. WoW, like most MMOs, has a very busy interface loaded with icons, lots of consumable items to buy and use, and lots of skills to equip. The game has been simplified over time, I’ve heard, as far as how much choice you have in selecting skills within each class, but it never had Guild Wars’ level of depth, not even close.

Looking at these screenshots doesn’t really make me want to play this game again even if I could, honestly… though that it still has monthly fees is definitely a part of that. Still, though, it is nice that the game has some building interiors, that’s something Guild Wars doesn’t have much of.

Combat. As with most MMOs, Guild Wars included, the game uses a skillbar-based system where you activate skills in your taskbar with your mouse or keyboard shortcuts. The more limited customization is less interesting than Guild Wars, though. Sure, it’s much harder to mess up a build here so there is less risk, but the lacking reward is worse. Unfortunately, Guild Wars 2 is much more inspired by games like this one or Phantasy Star Universe than it is Guild Wars, when it comes to how equipping skills works. It’s one of the great shames of that game.

I like the Night Elf character look better than the Human… but that might not be a surprise, in Warcraft III I mostly played as the Night Elves in multiplayer, after all.

And here we have the second of four screenshots, each with this character in a different costume.

Nah, I don’t want to stick with this one, if that is my character.

This one is an NPC, not my character. They are somewhat similar looking, though. She’s got starter-tier stuff to sell.

Oh joy, I got junky equipment… but don’t you want to play thousands of more hours of the game so you can get good stuff? … I don’t, really…

This shot reminds me of some of the things I liked about this game.  To be more positive about WoW, exploring the games’ large areas and fighting monsters is fun, though. And for people who do have friends in the game, a guild to play with, and such, I definitely see how this kind of game is appealing. I didn’t have that though, and didn’t think I ever would. As a solo game Guild Wars appealed to me more, in part because back then it had much better random grouping options. But even comparing this to GW as it is now, I still like GW’s core gameplay more than the traditional MMO gameplay you see here. Both are good designs that work well though, certainly; I just have somewhat unique tastes for what I like in games, I guess.

Also, with a better computer more able to handle the load of these graphics, it’d be more fun as well. If there was a framerate counter, it’d surely be lower than the averages you see in the Guild Wars screenshots.  I probably did like the game a little more when I played it again in 2010 on the newer computer I had by that point, but not enough so that I wanted to keep paying Blizzard money for the privilege…

Blizzard’s signature cartoony art design looks pretty good, too. I may prefer Guild Wars’ style, but this does look good, the environments in particular.  These original WoW character models don’t come very close to the GW characters in detail.

This is probably just a weird perspective and not a tiny person with huge bookshelves, but I’m not sure… but anyway, that’s all I’ve got for WoW.

As I said previously, four years after this 10-day trial in 2006, I bought WoW in 2010 and played for a month then.  It was the same game you see here, just better looking since I had a newer computer, and I had some fun but did not subscribe after the free month ended and have not played it again since.  Overall, World of Warcraft was okay.  Running around, getting skills and items, exploring, and doing quests was kind of fun.  Some things about the graphics are good, also.  It was a totally solo experience for me, though, and I don’t know how I would ever have met other people to play the game with, either.  And the core gameplay, all based around grinding and getting items, is not the kind of goal I keep playing a game for.  Still, it’s good.  I don’t at all agree with the popular pronouncement that WoW is the best MMO ever, but it’s not bad I guess, based on my memories of playing it years ago.

Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst – Fan Server (2008)

 

In 2008, along with some people from the then-good (and now quite the opposite!) gaming forum Neogaf, I played PSO Blue Burst on one of the fan-run servers for a while.  Unfortunately this server deletes characters if you don’t use them for a few months, Diablo 2 style, so my character, like the ones from the official server above, is long gone.  Before that happened, though, I played the game with them enough to finish PSO Episode I, which was a nice accomplishment.  I really wanted to beat the original PSO game, and I did!  It was worth the repetition, I think.  I didn’t like it quite enough to keep going in episode 2, but if I start a new charact4er on a server which doesn’t delete characters so often maybe I will, someday… though it would be harder solo than when playing with some other people as I was here.  Oh well.

Unfortunately, I only took three screenshots in this period, for some reason.  More interesting are the chat logs — this version of PSO allows you to log all chat when you’re logged in, and I had that on for a while.  The old chatlogs are pretty interesting for me to read, but I don’t think I want to share them.  So, these three images will have to do.  They are higher rez than the previous PSO screenshots because I had a better computer by this point.

I remembered about the screenshot function fairly well into episode one, clearly — I’m already a lot farther into the game than I was at the end of the first PSO set above. This is the third or fourth area.

The game gets tougher as you go along, but the different enemy types are interesting, and when working with other humans it’s more fun than the game is solo. PSO is an alright solo game, but it is a better team one.

And here’s the last one. I wish I’d taken shots of the ending… oh well. Still, playing through this was a fun experience.

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More corrections to part 11 of GW Memories

While working on the forum version of part 11 (http://www.blackfalcongames.net/?p=1043) of Guild Wars Memories and Screenshots, I realized that the corrections I made yesterday were inaccurate — I misidentified a few screenshots of the second Guild Wars Nightfall beta as being from release, and forgot about a folder with five more images of said beta. So, after further edits to that article, it now is an overlong one with a full 73 images in five sections. It is complete now, though!

Additionally, I fixed the new Guild Wars Memories and Screenshots Table of Contents page; the links all work now. Check it out in the top bar.

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Guild Wars Memories and Screenshots, Part 12: Late October 2006 – February 2007

In late October 2006, Arena.net started up the second annual Halloween event.  This builds on 2005’s event, but with some new stuff added to give players more to do.  At the same time, Guild Wars Nightfall released.  Yes, Nightfall released right when the Halloween event began.  I once again took a whole bunch of screenshots… and once again took almost none of the Christmas event, even though that is my favorite holiday.  Actually, this time there are none at all from Christmas; as far as holidays go it skips from Halloween to the second Dragon Festival in early 2007.  Oh well.  In between, I play more Factions, and finish it with my main.  So yeah, this is a pretty decent image set which covers a lot of ground.

A. Guild Wars Halloween 2006: late October-early November

While I had always played Guild Wars with a download, for Prophecies and Factions, I bought a retail box and entered the key from that box in order to unlock those campaigns in the game.  This time, however, with Nightfall, I did something new for me: I bought a game digitally.  Getting computer games digitally, without a box or disc/disk at all, was still a somewhat uncommon thing in 2006, though it was becoming a lot less uncommon.  There are positives and negatives to digital-only game purchases, but Arena.net encouraged digital purchases by offering some Halloween rewards you could only get by visiting Kamadan, the main city of the new campaign, during this short 5-day Halloween event.  This was enough to convince me to buy the game digitally, and so I did.  Much later I would get a box for the game for a few dollars from Goodwill, just to have one, but a digital-only game purchase still felt new and interesting at the time.  Today I see more of the negatives of digital-only game playing than the positives, for example because it allows companies to control what games you are allowed to play with far less to no recourse for people to play shut down or delisted games they may be interested in, but fortunately Arena.net is still around and running Guild Wars’ servers, so in this case at least so far that is not a problem yet.

These first two shots are from before Halloween.  It looks like I’m playing at least a little bit on the Luxon side here, that’s Luxon clothing.

This field would look a LOT nicer on a video card with post-processing and better antialiasing, that’s for sure.

And here we go, Halloween ’06 has started. Here we are in the center of Lion’s Arch by the great kettle.

Mad King Thorn is here again, so it’s Halloween day! The visits worked similarly to ’05’s. There are a lot of people here for the event, that’s nice.

Yup, He’s as capriciously evil as usual. Dance or die!

I’m not certain, but that disco ball is probably a party item someone set off and not part of the event.

Do what he wants now…

Everyone there to see Mad King Thorn got a new pumpkin crown. At the time the only way to get these was to be at this specific event, the ability to get old hats you missed wasn’t added until many years later.

Yup, rock-paper-scissors-with a name change returns. It’s as random as it sounds.

This cardboard cutout haunted house standee has always reminded me of the haunted house in the classic early ’90s PC adventure game Hugo’s House of Horrors… it doesn’t look the same as that one, but it’s close enough to be somewhat similar.

Yeah, the green water, sinking ship, and transformed Krytans return from last year.

Here’s something new, though: Halloween in Kamadan, the main city in Nightfall!  I bought Nightfall day one, digitally, in part so that I could experience the Halloween ’07 event, and here it is. Here are a bunch of candy corn guards.

And here’s Mad King Thorn in Kamadan. This crowd looks smaller than the one in Lion’s Arch, which makes sense; surely many people hadn’t bought Nightfall yet.

There are still a good number of people here to “enjoy” Mad King Thorn’s games, though.

Kamadan has been decorated for Halloween as well. This thing is interesting… and the way the moon is just in the background’s kind of cool too.

Hah, is that a cardboard cutout of a monster to take photos with your face in? Silly…

Looks like Talindra has a witch hat now, one of the new things for this event I believe.

 

B. Guild Wars Gameplay, November 2006 – mid February 2007

After the seasonal event ended, I went back to mostly not playing Nightfall, as this next image set will show.  There are a couple of Nightfall shots here, but that’s it.  Instead, I kept going towards the end of Factions with my main, and used one of my new character slots for something else…

Here I logged in to my other account for a moment to look at the three remaining characters there, and decide if I wanted to remake any of them in my main account, since the new campaign gave me two new character slots… so who should it be?  A second Elementalist perhaps?

Second, another Assassin.

Last, a Paragon. I really should actually play this class at some point.

First, though, my Ranger has gotten to the Fire Islands now, so I’m closing in on the end of the Prophecies campaign with my original GW character…

And here we see what I chose: Yup, I made a second Elementalist, this time a Factions one, in one of the two Nightfall character slots.  The other one still has that Nightfall Dervish in it.  I like the start of Factions, it’s a very quick starting island — a quite dramatic difference from the long, slow trip to level 20 Prophecies brings you through — but it looks beautiful and is fun to explore, so that’s alright. It’s nice to have options, either the slow 20 of Prophecies, the mid-speed one of Nightfall, and the quick one of Factions. This area of the starter island has the only snow in the Factions campaign, so of course I took some screenshots there.

Don’t worry, Wulf Cragfist is a friendly giant, not an enemy.  He’ll help you out here.

A Kurzick in Luxon territories? Either this is an enemy, which is possible but seems unlikely from the pose, or a guard near an outpost in the Jade Sea side of the map owned by a Kurzick guild. Factions has a faction-war element where player guild align with either the Kurzicks or the Luxons and can fight eachother in two PvP combat areas and buy outposts for their guild. When a guild owns an outpost their name is listed on the map, and the territory around that outpost is shown as belonging to the Luxons or Kurzicks on the map, depending. Neither side can actually win this war, because the home bases of both sides can only be controlled by their side, but it gives players something to do. Kurzick-aligned guilds have been fairly dominant a lot of the time.

Here in this outpost, the ground has loaded in but the player models have not yet. So, you can see the names where players are, but not their characters… it’s kind of amusing stuff.

Hey, it’s Nightfall! As you can see I’ve gotten really far in it with my main Talindra here, all the way to the first outpost in the starter island…

And here’s another shot of some of the people in that outpost. Nightfall does have a pretty cool aesthetic to it, you don’t see African-themed videogames very often at all.

Now though, back to Factions.  This definitely does not look like a good part of town. Those white boxes in the background are interesting, though — I’ve mentioned them before, but those are another way that characters who hadn’t loaded properly would appear on this computer, as a large white box instead of a person.

New clothes I guess, I haven’t dyed them green yet like I usually do.  This is a pretty generic screenshot, but I’ll post it anyway.  Even average Guild Wars environments like this looks good.


The Canthan New Year Festival and the Ending to Factions (And This PC) – mid to late February, 2007

This final image set is 23 screenshots. I must not have played for a little while, busy with school perhaps, but I came back to Guild Wars in February for the Canthan New Year seasonal special event.  I had ordered a new computer in February, finally, after having used my GeForce2-powered WinME machine for 5 1/2 years, but it hadn’t arrived yet so I was still playing on this machine.  This, then, excepting a few screenshots from late ’09 I took on the machine, will be the last batch of screenshots on the computer I used for the first two and a half years of Guild Wars’ life since the first public test in May 2004.  I’m sure I spent more time playing GW in that 2 1/2 years than I have in the more than twelve years since then, but that’s alright, I love the game regardless.  It may seem kind of strange that I’d play the game less once I finally got a computer able to run it at a stable framerate, as opposed to the often very low framerates the performance monitor shows I was getting on the WinME PC, but I’d gotten used to the sometimes-low framerates so it wasn’t as bad as it may seem.

Some time has passed, I didn’t take any screenshots around Christmas (Wintersday) apparently, and it’s now early 2007, time for the 2007 Canthan New Year festival.  This was the first Canthan New Year festival, and it ran from Feb. 16 to 19 2007 according to the Wiki.  Today Canthan New Year festivals run from Jan. 31 to Feb. 7 each year.  The Canthan New Year festival centers on Shing Jea Island, so that is where I have gone. You can tell that the Canthan New Year is on because of the decorative lanterns in the background.  The Shing Jea Boardwalk from the Dragon Festival that started in summer 2006 also re-opens during this event, which is great because the two minigames there, Rollerbeetle Racing and the Dragon Arena, are pretty good.

This game still looks great, even with grass as pixelated as this is…

Here is one of the festival NPCs, offering a limited-time quest only available during the Canthan New Year.  Each year, starting in 2007 of course, a miniature pet was offered to players who were there.  I have the one from 2007, the Miniature Pig, since 2007 was the year of the pig in the Chinese Zodiac that this goes by.  Guild Wars added more miniature pet gifts from other holidays as well as time went on, and as with festival hats, eventually you could get ones you previously missed, instead of only people who were at the initial event having them.  You could also get a Lion Mask during this event for doing certain things, but I don’t believe I got that.

Those three are all I’ve got for the Canthan New Year for a while… kind of. This shot is from after it ended, after all; yes, the datestamps on screenshots are accurate again, thankfully, in this folder. I will get to that “kind of” near the end of this article, and I’m not sure what to make of it, but as for this screenshot, I’m exploring a nice, though ruined, environment.  I like teh design of the area.

Hey, it’s a human player group in a mission! By this point that was becoming a somewhat less common thing, as Nightfall added more options for solo players and the userbase scattered across three campaigns, but this is a hard mission near the end of the Factions campaign, and human help is very welcome.

And here we are, Raisu Pavilion at the end of the Factions campaign… near several people in Obsidian Shard armor. Crazy expensive stuff, that is!

Another view of the Obsidian Shard armor.

Hmm, what’s happening here… oh right, I know where this is!

That’s right, I’ve finished Factions, with a player group too so it probably was a lot easier than when I did it solo with heroes with other characters later on. The Factions campaign only takes about 50 hours to complete, half the length of Prophecies, but it’s a very fun 50 hours so that’s okay. I did not take any screenshots of the ending to the story, so there are no spoilers here really; these shots are just of the celebration at the end, and of some of the people you can talk to in the ending corridor. Everyone else has left, but I’m taking my time here since I hadn’t beaten this campaign before. These end-of-campaign areas are ones you can only be in after beating the final mission, after all; you can’t just warp into these zones from the map.

Some nice fireworks celebrate my victory over Shiro Tagachi. Pretty!

They look better in motion to be sure, but you can get the sense of it from the screenshots.

In addition to fireworks, the games’ credits roll on the screen during a part of in these end-of-campaign zones, if you wait around long enough. I don’t think I have any shots of the credits here though, for whatever reason.

Here we can see Raisu Pavilion from above, in an upper gallery you only get to as a part of the ending celebration area.  Also, clipping two characters right on top of eachother, like I’m doing here, is always kind of amusing…

Here is one last shot of my victory. After that it’s back to the game, to do more quests and such.  Hard mode would not be added to the game until April 2007, and the postgame Canthan plague story arc until 2011, so for the moment that was all I could do in Factions, unless I wanted to go back and play the Luxon side of things that is, which I didn’t really do then.

There are always more quests to do in this game, unless you spend a WHOLE lot of hours in it that is… but I haven’t, so there’s always more to do in a campaign, even after finishing it. The green arrow over her head here shows this person probably has a quest.

When a character is not selected, they’re shadowed, matching the environment, as you can see here.

Click on the character, however, and they light up so you can see them clearly. It’s not realistic but works well in a videogame.

I’ve started some mission in the city, probably one of the harder quests.

… Uh, this looks like it could have gone better… I hope those dead people are all enemies!

Ah, it’s the Undercity, one of Factions’ unmappable, dungeon-like areas. It’s a tricky area which is pretty fun to explore.

And here is one of those screenshots I mentioned earlier which have me confused. So, this file is dated February 25, 2007. This is well after the stated ending of the Canthan New Year on Feb. 19, at which point the Dragon Arena should be rendered inaccessible again until the next Dragon Festival. However, as this shows, the Dragon Arena seems to still be open, because here I am in it! Perhaps it was open for the rest of the month, or something? I’ve done some searching online and haven’t found anything yet that says so, so I’m not sure. That’s pretty interesting, I wish I remembered why this is. I’ve been playing for quite a while, too, as the “you have played for 5 hours, please take a break” message says.

And here we see the post0game scoring summary for a Rollerbeetle race, the other Shing Jea Boardwalk minigame you can only access during those two festivals. They must have been open for some time after the end of the festival.  Rollerbeetle Racing is fun stuff.  As with everything in GW it comes down to being about skill usage, but the skills are unique to this event and the racing theme is done well; you do need to race down the track, while using skills to get ahead.

And last, a random shot of my Ranger character, showing some stuff in my inventory including the Halloween pumpkin mask rewards from 2006 and 2007, some Halloween party items, and such.

And with that, my time playing Guild Wars on the computer I had used up to this point came to a close: my new PC arrived in early March.  As I’ve said, I responded by playing this game a lot less, so when I next do an article in this series it will cover even more ground — I’ve only got 45 screenshots for the rest of 2007 and all of 2008 combined.  I will continue with these articles, though I’m almost past the most nostalgic part for me now, but next time, I’ll take a little break from this with something else.  Expect that later this month.

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Important update to the previous article and small site update

When I went back into my screenshot folders to work on the next update in the Guild Wars Memories and Screenshots article series, which will post soon, I found an error I should have noticed last time — the second screenshot batch in my previous post actually goes after the third one, not before it. In fact, actually, it goes after another small image set that I hadn’t posted yet! So, in order to keep the screenshots in chronological order, I re-organized the previous post, moving the second part to the end and adding a new part three with 13 new screenshots in it.  Some captions were changed as well, to reflect the correct time.  I thought about putting both of those parts into a new post here, but I think that this way makes more sense both chronologically and in terms of how many screenshots are in each article; the next one will have plenty of its own.  So, readers here who are caught up will need to go to the previous post to see the first new content, before moving on to the next one. Sorry about that.

Additionally, I finally added the Guild Wars Memories and Screenshots page into my Table of Contents… by making a whole separate second contents page for it.  This is a different kind of article series from the others I have done, and that main Table of Contents page is quite long as it is, so I decided to make a new second page for it.  It is in the top bar to the right of the main Table of Contents, and also is linked to in the main Table of Contents page at the appropriate points.  This page links all articles in the series, and forum threads on several forums that are copies of or references to the series as well.

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Guild Wars Memories and Screenshots, Part 11: May – October 2006

This will be a long one.  In this 73-screenshot article, I will cover five things: the first Dragon Festival in late June to early July and more of release Factions; the first, PvP-only Nightfall beta in late July; the period in between the Nightfall betas; the second, PvE Nightfall beta; and last some more Factions gameplay from after that beta.  Originally this post contained only 55 screenshots, but I realized that the 25-screenshot set of Factions gameplay actually is from after the second Nightfall beta and not before it, and that I’d forgotten to post most of the handful of second Nightfall beta screens that I have.  So, after multiple edits to correct the timeline, this post is now very long and one of the biggest in the series.  Sorry about that, it probably should be two articles.  Anyway, versus the original 55-image article, the major additions are the 13-screenshot set between the Nightfall betas and the 10 screenshots from the second Nightfall beta.  Also the 25-screenshot last Factions-focused set has moved to the end where it goes.

But yes, despite Factions only being a few months old, Arena.net was already advertising their upcoming third campaign with betas.  My screenshots from the first Nightfall beta are almost all from the character creator, so it looks like I didn’t play it much, but I do have a few gameplay screens from the second beta.  It was interesting that they were already showing Nightfall in July, though; that was only a couple of months after Factions released, and Nightfall would not release until October.  This is a similar timetable to Factions, in that the first Factions beta was also a PvP weekend event three months before the game launched, but there was a year between the original Guild Wars’ release and Factions, while Nightfall came only six months after Factions.  It felt different with the campaigns so close.  I know I will keep repeating this point, but it’s what I think.

Anyway, while 2006 was a great year for Guild Wars, going from my screenshots and memories, as I’ve said before 2004-2005 was when I played the game the most.  That should be easy to see in this post — there are a lot of screenshots here, but it also covers a full five months, so compared to 2004 or 2005 it’s clear I was playing the game less than I had before.  The slow decline of my hours in GW would continue, unfortunately.  That may be part of why I was not as hyped for Nightfall as I was Factions, I still had plenty more Factions to play when Nightfall released.  I kind of wish ANet had spaced out Guild Wars’ expansions more evenly, but they seem to have kept changing their minds about what they should do with the game, until eventually abandoning it for its far worse sequel.  That part of the story is pretty sad and frustrating, but fortunately Guild Wars 1 is still fantastic regardless of how badly I think things went with the second game.


A. Guild Wars Factions – First Dragon Festival, June 30 – July 6, and the rest of July as well

A month after the release of Factions in late April, Arena.net added a new, third festival to the yearly calendar.  They would eventually have seven time-limited festivals that run at different times of the year, and this was the third after the Halloween and Wintersday (Christmas) events which started in 2005.  The Dragon Festival is Guild Wars’ Fourth of July event, occurring annually from the end of June to early July, but it’s Asian-themed fitting with its Canthan setting.  This event introduced the Shing Jea Boardwalk and several limited-time minigames, including the Dragon Arena and three little minigames.  The other main Boardwalk minigame, Rollerbeetle Racing, would be introduced in 2007.  These events are only playable during the Canthan New Year and Dragon Festival events, in January-February and June-July each year.

I guess I either didn’t take many screenshots or had waited a while before getting Factions, because these screenshots are the next ones I took after the ‘I got Factions’ Factions tutorial area batch from the last update.  The Dragon Festival was pretty cool, though; I really liked the new minigame, and it would be a good sign of things to come as more minigames would be added to Guild Wars over the year following.

Heh… I’m clipped right on top of another character, so the two models are kind of merged together…

This is the Dragon Arena, or rather probably the lobby area for it.  The Dragon Arena was a new limited-availability mode that, again, is only available in the January and July events. This arena is a random arena with some unique skills and rules which make for an amusing and unique challenge.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any shots of the skillbar, only interface-off shots like this.  That’s too bad because, as I said, the Dragon Arena uses its own exclusive skills, not your usual ones.

In the Dragon Arena everyone has these wand things which you shoot at eachother with. You don’t use your usual weapon. As the Guild Wars Wiki says, gameplay was inspired by dodgeball — you need to avoid enemy shots, while hitting them with your own.

The festival grounds are all decorated for the event, with lanterns and everything. It’s a nice looking area.

Here we have another shot from an ongoing match in the Dragon Arena. Yes, everyone has those wands.

I also spent some time doing regular missions during this festival, though. Here I am exploring Shing Jea Island. As this is a Prophecies character you don’t have to do that, but I wanted to because it’s a pretty nice area with some beautiful sights to see.

Shing Jea Island feels quite Japanese and pastoral, and it’s a great contrast from the big city and ruined landscapes of the rest of Factions. This is a beautiful area.

Back to the town, which is all decorated for the festival.

Those lanterns all over are nice and definitely add to the atmosphere. You know a special event is on when you go to a place you’ve seen in its normal state hundreds of times, except this time it looks different… after this the Dragon Festival might have ended, but I’ll break the article where I started a new images folder, instead of after this screenshot.

I’m not sure why I took this one, but I do like those snowy Guild Wars trees.

From this point you have an overlook which allows you to see the town, far below in the distance. You’re above the fog, which looks like it’s actually a flat layer. It works though, so sure, why not.  Today this scene would look better, as the ‘full detail to the horizon’ patch from 2018 does wonders for vistas like this one!  Not that I would ever enable that option on a computer running a GeForce 2 like the one I took all these shots on has, though.. you’d be lucky to see a frame per second, probably…

I think we might all be poisoned here? That’s what the green auras emitting from the characters means, I believe… it makes for a pretty nice shot though, with the green glow and light rays lighting this dark area.

And without that light you get this, very dark areas. I took three screenshots of this character (or player?) running back and forth in the distance for some reason. I don’t know why, now… but here’s one of them.

Back in the city, we have a well-dressed NPC official in a not too nice looking part of the city center.

Arena.net’s artists and graphical designers made some truly impressive things in Guild Wars, and this area is definitely among them! This shot is another one of my favorites from this update. The sickly red-yellow light, in this dark area, looks great… ominous, but great.

Oops, the ground textures broke again! At least we can finally see a skillbar here… but yeah, with broken ground textures the chat is unreadable because lines do not disappear so long as you’re looking at the ground, everything just overlaps.


B. Guild Wars Nightfall PvP Preview Event: July 28-30, 2006

Only two months after Guild Wars Factions released, Arena.net was already starting to preview their next expansion, Nightfall.  For an expansion as large as it is, as I said at the top in this post I kind of think that Nightfall might have released too soon.  I know Factions is a short campaign and many people surely were ready for something new, but I was taking my time with it and definitely wasn’t done yet!  But no, here’s a huge new campaign to play, and it’s a pretty hard one too.  Well, at least all this content has given me something to do with the game over the years since, and that’s a very good thing considering that ANet started abandoning this game in 2008…

Anyway, following Asian-themed Factions, Nightfall is African-themed.  It has a North African theme specifically, with a mostly desert and sahel environment.  As with Factions, two new classes were added, one melee and one ranged.  Nightfall is a great campaign, but I have never liked these classes as much as the original ones, and the campaign took me a very long time to finish as well.  The first beta, as the name suggests, was PvP only, so it served to test the two new classes but did not show off any of Elona, the new continent where the campaign was set.  There would later be a second beta with PvE content in it, much like Factions had.

As a note, I don’t seem to have played this beta much at all.  In fact, of the dozen or so screenshots from it I took, only two are from out of the character creator, and only one of those two is worth posting!  So yeah, enjoy like ten pictures from the character creator, I guess… yay?  It is at least a little interesting, though, as where else will you see the two new Nightfall classes, the Dervish and Paragon, existing in front of the Factions select screen / character creation background?  Only in this beta, that’s where!

So as I said, almost all of my pictures from this beta are from character creation. It is pretty interesting to see a Dervish in the Factions login-screen environment, though…

Rear shot of this outfit.

This shows some of your options for new characters in this test. You had more options than a regular new character since they gave everyone some stuff to play with for the beta.

Side view of this second, less skimpy outfit.

And here’s a third one, with hanging blades that match the scythe weapons Dervishes favor.

This is the one I went with for my character.  I changed the colors to green though, of course!  It only colors the highlights and not the main dress, but that’s better than nothing.

Starting a battle.  This is a very interesting environment indeed… it’s definitely something new, this isn’t from Prophecies or Factions.

This area was the main little taste of Elona you could see in the beta. It’s a small area where your new characters go through before you fight in PvP.

And here we see my account, with my five regular characters and one empty slot that I was using for a test character in the beta. (I thought about keeping this character, but ultimately did not and made a different Dervish eventually instead, after Nightfall released.)

Rear view.

This shot is from after the end of the beta, but as you see, after that I deleted that character and created a Paragon, to also try out the other new class. Male Paragons have Roman legionnaire-styled outfits which are kind of cool. I never have played much Paragon at all, though… I should try it sometime.

 

C. August 22 to September 23, 2006: Between the Nightfall Betas

The first Nightfall beta ran in late July, and the second in late September.  This first shot is from mid August, though, so either I didn’t play for a month or the file date is wrong, but I don’t think the file date is wrong in this case, so perhaps I just hadn’t taken any screenshots in a month, if I played any.  In the interim, as expected I went back to playing more of the great game that is Guild Wars Factions.

Before Nightfall released and I decided to do with the character slot, I decided to take another screenshot of this Paragon character.

Rear shot of him.

I was slowly progressing through Prophecies with my Ranger, here and there.

The Canthan official outfits are good designs.

This is just a lobby area in Cantha. It looks pretty nice from a distance like this though, like it could be from a cutscene… but it isn’t.  The environment is somewhat low-poly of course, but the art design is impeccable.

At this point, I decided to abandon following my college friends from guild to guild as they made new ones, and just stayed in this one ever since, despite its very dumb name that I’ve never liked. I did make one big change, though…

Yes, I brought back my Lego Black Falcon shield-inspired guild cape! I tried a few designs before settling on the final one. I love this design, it looks great…

This solid-color pattern looks nice, but ultimately I stuck with the cross-hatched one.

And here we see the results, my guild cape. I still really like the look of it.

This is a street in the city in Cantha. The polygon count doesn’t come even close to what games can do today, but back then this looked very nice… though of course in art design it still does!

She’s got a quest now, apparently. The background’s more interesting though, with those nice trees in front of a wall of shack-like houses.

 

Guild Wars Nightfall World Preview Event: September 22-24, 2006

As I previously mentioned, similar to Guild Wars Factions, Nightfall had a second, PvE-focused beta several months after its first one.  This beta occurred in late September and I participated.   And again, just like Factions, this beta is, for some strange reason, not mentioned at all in the official Guild Wars Wiki!  As before this confused me while putting these articles together, and I had this mislabeled previously.  I should have figured this all out correctly before posting these screenshots instead of a month later… oh well, at least the record is correct now.  I will post another small update mentioning the corrections.   Here is another Guild Wars wiki that mentions this event: https://guildwiki.gamepedia.com/Guild_Wars_Nightfall_World_Preview_Event.

For the event, I decided to make a new character, another Dervish this time.  This isn’t my character though, just a henchman.

Here we see the beginning of the Nightfall intro mission, before you reach the main town.

Here we see my new character. This character was made in my main account, and I still have it, though barely played… I’ve just never liked melee classes in Guild Wars nearly as much as ranged ones.

Elona is a nice-looking area, as always for Guild Wars, but with a unique look to it you don’t see elsewhere in the game or, as I said, all that often in games in general. You see some hints of that here.

When you pull the camera overhead, the way the grass textures are attached in the ground here and there to look like a field becomes exposed…

After playing this beta I was looking forwards to Nightfall, but given how much of Factions I still had left, I definitely wasn’t as excited for it was I had been for Factions. I know I’ve said it already, but the timing for these campaigns was perhaps not the best. Oh well, at least it meant that we got lots of content to play in this game, enough to last for many years!

And here’s my character in the select screen. I also took a couple of shots of my Paragon in the second account, showing that I did load that account up again for this beta, but none of the shots are worth sharing. That may have been the last time I was able to play those characters though, unless the Eye of the North beta also unlocked accounts without a key and I actually loaded up the second account. My guess is I probably didn’t, though.

 

E. Guild Wars Factions Screenshots: September – October 2006

 

With the Nightfall beta over, I continued on my way through Guild Wars Factions, only occasionally taking shots from the other campaigns.  There are a few Prophecies screens in this set at the start, but it’s mostly Factions.  As I just said I was kind of looking forward to Nightfall, but was much more interested in playing more of Factions.  So, I did.

I kept trying every so often to finish Prophecies with my Prophecies Elementalist.

Unfortunately, while the cape is great, not so great is that I’d pretty seriously stalled out with this Elementalist by this point. I’m late in Kryta here and have probably barely made any progress with the character since I took these screenshots back in 2006…

My six characters as of fall 2006, all together.  Nightfall was not released yet at this point, of course, so I’ll need to wait before playing this character again.

But instead of continuing with that, I went back to the new campaign, Factions, with my main Talindra. Yeah, the clipping in Guild Wars is kind of weird. Most games don’t just let you clip through everything like this one, or at least offline games don’t; maybe it’s common in online games for technical reasons? Anyway, this is the big city in Cantha, the continent in Factions. This woman NPC in front of me may be a bureaucrat, that looks like one of their outfits. East Asian-inspired Cantha has a very large bureaucracy.

And here we have some players, albeit in a screenshot that’s not so great, with all of the close characters being on one side of the image and all.

Running along in this game is so much fun! I really like this kind of shot, it accurately represents a substantial part of the game. Factions has some pretty cool environments, and this one is definitely one of those.

Tahnakai Temple has statues of several of Cantha’s legendary heroes of the past. I took screenshots of a few, starting with this one. I forget who this is offhand… the shrine, including candles and statue, is nicely done though.

This female warrior hero gets a large podium as well.

Deity statues, such as this one in Tahnakai Temple, look the same in Cantha as they do in Tyria. The environment doesn’t look the same at all, though! The city in Cantha is incredibly dense and built up, so you often have ceilings like this which appear to be made of buildings. That ring of cloth sunshades up ahead isn’t normal, though; this is a special area.

I’m not sure why this statue is there, other than to have yet another scantily clad female figure in an MMO, as if there aren’t enough of those already… the environment’s pretty nice though, and well modeled.

This is the important hero from the past, the assassin who killed Factions big bad Shiro Tagachi. You talk to her ghost at one point.

The giant city is such a cool environment, it’s definitely one of my favorites in Guild Wars. This scene is just one example of why! This is a pretty interesting area, with those buildings on one side, rocks on the other side, and buildings in the background…

Yes, Danika is in the city as well, for a while at least, with her pets/fellow henchmen. This area with the exposed rock pillars is on an edge of the city.

This one is definitely one of my favorites from this update. It shows off the city well, and this mostly still looks pretty good. Sure, the ground textures aren’t the most detailed, but it mostly looks really nice. The beam of light is well placed as well, breaking through the gloom of the layers of buildings…

It would be hard to see the sun much in some parts of this city, with how many things are built on top of other things. On another note though, shots like this showing me exploring with just henchies is a nostalgic thing, with how ever since Nightfall I’ve mostly explored with Heroes. Talindra’s skillbar is familar, however; it hasn’t changed much since.

And here we see the party, or rather, me (not visible due to using first person view) and a bunch of AI helpers. This city’s crazy stuff, with how huge the spaces are and how overgrown with buildings everything is… it might be my overall favorite Guild Wars environment, I’m not sure.

I’ve gotten out of the city now though, as were we meet some Luxons and one of their giant turtles. The green open space between the city and the Luxon and Kurzick areas stands alone in Factions, there are other green places in the campaign but none quite like this one. … oh, and yeah, that’s obviously a player there with that chat window in the background…

Here’s another Luxon woman NPC, at this camp.

And here is my first shot of the Jade Sea, the bright green frozen ocean. The same disaster that petrified Echovald Forest turned this former inland sea into jade. Green is my favorite color so I do really like the look of the Jade Sea, but despite that I’ve always preferred the Kurzicks so there won’t be too many Jade Sea screenshots here for quite some time. Still, it’s a great area which, like much of Factions, makes me kind of wish that the game had the kind of scale of Prophecies. Its relative denseness, with many fewer zones in the game compared to the first campaign and how Factions mission areas that can also be explored as regular explorable areas instead of separating the two, makes for a strong contrast when you compare Factions to Prophecies. The result is that if you take a regular, straight path through the game, this game is half the length of Prophecies, 50 hours for a new character instead of over a hundred. Nightfall kind of splits the difference, with more areas than Factions, but fewer than Prophecies. I know I just said I wish Factions was larger, and I do, but it is kind of nice that the game has this variety; you can play a shorter or longer, harder or easier, campaign depending on your preference.

Moving the camera overhead is rarely a good idea in gameplay, but it does at least make for a slightly different-looking screenshot. Otherwise, this text is just henchman chatter, not humans saying things.

Now I’m in Echovald Forest, which I posted a bunch more shots of in the beta set in the last update. What’s going on here…

A lot of exploration, apparently, is what was going on, going by how many dots are on that map! And I’ve completed several quests as well, and gotten a new elite skill — you can only have one at a time, so the only way to have two as you see here is to capture it and not go back to a town yet, as once you do one will be unequipped.

Ahh, snow… I love snow, winter is great. I’ve got something else to celebrate, too — I’ve finally finished my elite scar pattern armor set! If you look at the screenshots above in this set, I still didn’t have the glove piece yet, but now I do. Getting all of the materials to build this set took quite some time, and many trips to the specific area of the South Shiverpeaks you had to go to to make it, but it was worth it. … Well, honestly I have always thought that I should have an armor set that includes actual clothing, instead of this thing which obviously does not, but still haven’t bought another elite armor set for either this or any other character. I really should do something about that…

Yes, it’s another shot of the very cool tree-sky of Echovald Forest. It’d be pretty awesome to see a high-def version of this done with modern graphics tech…

It’s the Jade Sea! But continuing from my last comment, looking at this shot makes me think that yes, some things about this game have aged graphically. It still looks very impressive, for a game that hasn’t had much work done to it since 2007, but that creature in the background here sure doesn’t look great.

These really giant turtles don’t move, only the smaller ones do.

And that’s all for this update.  At least a few of these screenshots were nice, so I guess I’m glad to share them.  Next time, the 2006 Halloween event, and more Factions gameplay.  The next article will be the last one for a long time entirely taken on the by-this-point-aged computer from 2001 I took all of these screenshots so far on, so look forward to a significant increase in screenshot image quality starting in two Guild Wars Memories updates from now.

 

 

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Guild Wars Memories and Screenshots, Part 10: March – May 2006

Following those two screenshots at the end of the last post from after the end of the January Factions PvP beta weekend,  my screenshots jump straight to the next Factions beta in late March 2006.  Arena.net’s writeup of the beta still available is here: http://gw1101.gtm.guildwars.com/events/ingame/factionspreview.php.  I guess I wasn’t playing much Guild Wars that spring.  I did graduate from undergrad college that spring, so I was busy.  My retro gaming collection was growing fast as well.

So, this post is made up of two parts again.  First, the Factions Preview Event in March 2006, and second general Guild Wars gameplay from March to May of 2006.  That second part isn’t as interesting a screenshot set as the first is, I would say.  I have at least some more good screenshots to post in this series, though.


A. Factions Preview Event, March 2006

 

As the article linked above says, from March 24 to 27 Arena.net ran a second beta test for Guild Wars: Factions, which would release the next month.  I may not have been playing much in the two months between these tests, but I was back for this beta, because I was looking forward to Factions.  This time the PvE and PvP sides of Factions were shown, and we could explore a chunk of the world in Echovald Forest and the Jade Sea, though I only went to one of those areas.  Again using my second account most of the time, I created a new Factions character there and explored the forest.  Other than the first shot here, all the rest of my screenshots from this test are either of the character creation screens or of me playing as a new Elementalist character that I made in the second (beta) account.

 

This shot shows my regular Guild Wars character Talindra in the Battle Isles.  So, this test definitely allowed regular PvE characters to access the Battle Isles, which might have been a new thing; I’m not sure that the previous test from January allowed that.  This is the only shot I have of any of my regular characters in the new Factions beta areas, though, so I found it kind of confusing when I saw it.  But that has got to be what’s going on here.

Here we see my new character (again, in that second account at this point) – an Elementalist, because I always have preferred ranged classes to melee and I like combat classes more than healing. Also I was interested in making a new one, other than the Prophecies Elementalist I also had.

Here we see one of the 37 screenshots I took in the character creator for this beta. I took screenshots of a lot of the costumes available to female characters of all of the classes. Yeah, female ones only this time; I just wasn’t interested enough in the male costumes, I guess. I think I will post a side-article part of this series eventually where I post most of the character-creator screenshots I took in three of the betas, namely two of the early pre-release betas and then this one. It’s not that exciting, but I took all these screenshots, so why not? It is at least a little bit interesting to see the options they gave you, I think.

I took a bunch of shots of some of the Kurzick NPCs in this test. Right from the beginning I preferred the Kurzicks to the Luxons, both for character and environment design, and you see that here as I didn’t do their side right from the start here.  Even as of writing this I still have actually never finished the Luxon side of the split portion of the Factions campaign, though last year I did finally play through most of it. The Jade Sea is a beautiful area indeed, I’m glad to finally have explored it. Echovald Forest is also a great area, though. Factions is maybe a bit too short, but it’s a fantastic campaign I have always loved, for the most part.  It’s my second favorite of the four Guild Wars campaigns, after the original.

Despite Factions’ Asian theme, the Kurzicks have a quite gothic look to them, to say the least. Despite how much I like Factions, I have always found it a little weird how past the city the last two areas are this gotic forest and a frozen, somewhat Asian/Greek-ish pirate area. I know this is a Western game and you can tell, with how the city and such is a mishmash of Chinese and Japanese elements in a way you probably would not see from an Asian game, but still it’s a little odd. The visual design here is great, but how Asian-inspired is the Kurzick area? Anyway, this is Danika, one of the leading members of the Kurzicks and someone who you can fight with as a healer henchman. Behind her are her pets, two Rot Wallows who also are henchmen. Yes, really.

And here are two more of the Kurzick henchmen, a mage and a guardian (warrior-healer).  Most of the frozen Echovald Forest is made of petrified trees, but some areas are bright green with returning life, such as this ground here.

Yes, the classic henchies are here as well. Well, some of them are; they divided them between the Kurzick and Luxon areas, so the main party — Devona, Aidan, Eve and Cynn here, and such — are in the Kurzick areas, and others in the Luxon.  Mhenlo is not available as a henchmen in Factions, unfortunately; he’s a major story character and doesn’t have the time to explore around, pretty much.

A disaster turned this whole forest to stone. You learn more when you play the full game, here we were thrown into this part of the campaign that ended up being fairly far in. It’s a really cool concept and they executed on it very well.

Henchmen.  The assassin woman in front is on the Factions box. But yeah, the character models still look good, but those rock wall textures in the background have not…

This is not Danika, just someone else who looks kind of similar. The Luxons and Kurzicks both use consistent design themes throughout.

And here, the same shot but with the interface off. The image quality looks about the same this time though, really…

Yes, some other people were playing this beta as well.

Mesmer Kurzicks have weird masks like this one.

And now, finally some actual gameplay! I wish I’d taken more gameplay shots, and less in towns… oh well. Anyway, this area of the Kurcick cathedral is nice.

Run! This looks like a shot from a cutscene here, but I think I’m just exploring, not playing the mission.  It’s an alright shot though I think.

Yes, I am thoroughly exploring this zone.

See? I think I’ve covered almost every bit of it now!

Here is another female Kurzick NPC, albeit one with a much less fancy outfit.

Zoomed out to see more of the environment, Echovald Forest is still pretty beautiful. Cutting something that looks like a church out of that petrified tree is interesting and looks great.

The sky in Echovald Forest mostly is not visible because of the giant petrified trees. Here is one shot of the sky, or rather, the branches…

And here is another. It’s yet another great touch in this fantastic area of the game. Echovald Forest has always been one of my favorite parts of Guild Wars to explore around and look at…

The ground is mostly dead in the forest, but with so little light getting through those branches you’d expect that. I like the look of that tree in the center here, the light in this otherwise dead tree is pretty cool.

Now, I’ve returned to an outpost. Unlike the depths of the forest above, this is not one of the forests’ best-looking areas. Sure, it looks alright, but the giant trees are the best…

A Factions-style dragon, in this outpost? And is that a dead person on the ground on the left side? What is going on here… is this normal, or an end-of-beta event?

It’s not a huge crowd, but at least some other people were playing this beta near the end here.

Another shot of my character from the front, the direction you rarely see in games.  GW has great character designs, but the Kurzick building here is pretty great as well.

We’re probably getting close to the end of the beta now…

Before the end though, I took four screenshots of what, exactly, I had explored in the ten or so hours I’d played the beta. Yeah, I spent almost the entire time in this beta exploring the forest in PvE with this Elementalist character, neglecting the other things you could do — much PvP, the Alliance battles, and such. See the link at the top to Arena.net’s article for more on those other events.

North of that last shot, we see the upper part of Echovald Forest. Factions areas really aren’t that large.

Oh yeah, I got far on the Luxon side… yup…

On the Kurzick side, though, I did as much as I could!  You couldn’t explore everything in this beta, but I got to most of what was there.

And last, to conclude the beta, I … explored the forest a bit more, because I was really having a lot of fun doing it. I took a screenshot of my playtime at this point as well, since I was on a second account so I knew a record of how long I’d played the beta would be valuable. And indeed it is.

 

B. Guild Wars – March – May 2004, Prophecies and then the Factions launch

With the beta over, I went back to only infrequently playing GW over the next month as I probably focused more on school and classic games, something I was really getting into in 2006.  Factions released April 28th, and I’m not sure exactly when I bought it — I bought a physical box, so I probably waited a weeks until after college ended —  but I’m sure I got it by sometime in May.  Here we see my first few shots from the tutorial area.  Next time, more Factions release shots, and the first Nightfall beta.  My favorite time for Guild Wars is 2004-2005, but despite my paucity of screenshots, 2006, up until the release of Nightfall, was also a great time for Guild Wars.  I played the game a lot less than I had in ’05, but still was playing some of the game, again, even if I wasn’t always taking screenshots of what I was doing.

Sometimes in this game, you die while exploring when deep in an area, close to your objective. But your death penalty is high, so you run all the way across the stupid map from the respawn shrine near where you started, only to find…

Gah! Died again, barely getting any farther. Back to square one… well, at least the few enemies I got past last time are dead now! When you are in these kinds of situations and then actually surpass the challenge and make it through it’s incredibly satisfying; despite the occasional frustration this is a thing I really love about Guild Wars.

And here we see, I’ve gone back to playing as my Monk character and that’s why I am going through the desert this time. Healing is hard, and I found the standard Heal-focused build less interesting, so as you see from my skillbar instead I have a mixture of healing and protection skills at this point.

I know I keep saying this, but even on this aging computer Guild wars really did look great most of the time. I’m thinking that again while looking at this screenshot.

And now, back to the Shiverpeaks.  Heh… edge of the world, again! Usually you aren’t supposed to be able to get to the actual edge of a map, but some pathing glitch allowed it here. That’s fun stuff.

And here’s another shot of this edge of the map. Again, usually there are walls, visible or invisible, that keep you from getting to areas like this.

The glass-like water in GW is pretty great as well.  Or is this ice?  It is cold out, after all.

And now I’m exploring something back in Ascalon… no idea why, though, beyond that Ascalon is one of the best parts of Guild Wars, so it’s fun to go back to once in a while.

The area outside of Sorrow’s Furnace here clearly has more going on than any of the Shiverpeaks areas in the original launch game, both in design and in art. They put a lot of effort into Sorrow’s Furnace, it’s too bad that they didn’t do much else like it afterwards.  On another note, I’ve stuck with this outfit for my Monk because it’s probably my favorite Monk clothes.  She still has it.

66% of Tyria explored with my main… I’ve gotten that number a lot higher since. Anyway though, that’s a big monster up ahead! I’m sure this will go fine…

At this point the people from school I was in this guild with decided to make a new guild, so we were switching over to the new one at this point. I took a few shots of all the people, but won’t post those. This one’s fine though.

See? I’ve got a new guild cape. I didn’t take any shots of the new guilds’ player list and such at this point, but the cape changed for a reason.  The color is wrong, though, because this is the team arenas and I’m on the blue team.

And here is the new capes’ its actual color, red. The new guild has a pretty dumb name, and I’ve always kind of hated the acronym… but I’ll get to that later.Anyway, I’m exploring the snowy forest. Those snow-covered trees are, as always, one of my favorite background objects in this game…

Next though, I decided to log in to the second account, and take screenshots of the three characters I had used in the second Factions beta. Yes, I did have three characters, and not only the one seen in all of the screenshots from part one of this article. This Assassin is the one that I’d delete here after Factions released and recreate in my main account.

And here is the new Elementalist, which I would eventually also delete and recreate in my main account. … Yes, both of my Elementalist characters have Fire-focused skillsets. I really should branch out but always have preferred the Fire skills…

And here’s the other Assassin.  No, this isn’t the one from the first Factions beta, but another one.  I was trying more Asian-style names than that one had, and chose the other one over this.   This character still exists, however; I logged in to this second beta-only-use account of mine today, albeit with a different hair style for some reason. I must have recreated the character at some point in the Nightfall betas, I guess? I don’t remember, and unfortunately this is the only old screenshot I have of the character, so who knows.

Yes, I had logged in to the other account to choose which character to delete to create in my main account, since I’ve gotten Guild Wars: Factions! As I said, I chose one of the Assassins.  Unlike Prophecies, Factions has a much faster pace — this campaign is only maybe half as long as Prophecies.  That game takes me a bit over a hundred hours a character to finish, while this one is 50 or 60 hours.  It’s a densely packed 50 or 60 hours, though, without anywhere near as much downtime and aimless wandering as Prophecies has.  Despite the short length, it’s a great campaign and my second favorite of the four overall, after Prophecies of course.

New Factions characters start on Shina Jea Island, a very traditional-Japan area which looks beautiful.

Unfortunately, I did not take any more gameplay shots in this set. Instead, all I’ve got are a handful of shots of (mostly female) NPCs and such… blah. I mean, this character has a good, interesting design, but still…

A warrior woman. As for the background, yeah, Shing Jea Island is quite Japanese. Then the city on the mainland is much more Chinese, and then the Kurzick and Luxon areas are gothic and asian-pirate themed for whatever reason. Of course characters from Shinge Jea Island and the mainland have a mixture of Chinese and Japanese names, because East Asia is all the same, right? To be fair, Guild Wars Prophecies is similarly mixed together — Ascalon stands in for just about all of fantasy-medieval Europe, after all, not any one nation, but it’s something I noticed because it is a common thing in Western depictions of Asia.

Here we see some Henchmen from Shing Jea Island.  There isn’t much healthy, green areas on the mainland, other than one zone and some bits of grass here and there, so the island really stands out. It’s kind of too bad it’s all very easy content, though Hard Mode adds at least some challenge to it…

Yup, it’s another character creation shot. This time it’s only one, though. No, I did not make this character; it wouldn’t be until 2018 that I actually made a semi-serious effort at playing Mesmer… it’s a tricky class due to all the timing requirements on Mesmer skills, and has never been one of my favorites as a result.

And last, we have… another NPC in an interesting outfit. Okay. The next screenshot batch is better, though, really.

 

 

 

 

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Guild Wars Memories and Screenshots, Part 9: November 2005 – February 2006

This time, I’m kind of combining two posts into one by covering two things.  I chose to do it this way because both sets end in January 2006, so this way it keeps the dating simpler, and also because under 40 screenshots didn’t seem like quite enough for a solo article without much descriptive text.  Future articles will often do this as well as they cover more time.

The two parts of this article are, first, a set of images of release Guild Wars, circa late ’05 to early ’06.  The second part is of the first open beta for the upcoming second Guild Wars standalone expansion game, Guild Wars: Factions.  These are from the Guild Wars Factions Global Free-For-All PvP Weekend.  I had a hard time figuring out what event these shots were from at first because this event is not mentioned in the official Wiki, confusingly enough, but I found it eventually.  See the section below, in the middle of this article, for much more on what was in this beta, and also for a link to further details.


A. Guild Wars (Prophecies), November 2005 to mid January 2006

 

The first half, approximately, of this article is a set of screenshots from release Guild Wars.  This contains 39 screenshots from after Halloween 2005 until mid January 2006.  Included are a bunch of Sorrow’s Furnace shots, from my many futile attempts to beat the Iron Forgeman, and the few pictures I took of Christmas 2005.  I must not have had much time to play GW that holiday, but at least took a couple of screenshots when I could.

I’m honestly not sure exactly when I took this screenshot, but it definitely isn’t from this point in time; it may be from one of the later pre-release Beta Weekend Events? It’s either that or it’s promoting the upcoming Guild Wars Factions Global Free-For-All PvP Weekend, which ran for a weekend in mid January. I’m not sure, but it’s more likely the latter — this still has the original ‘camp’ character select environment, so it’s pre-Factions, and visually looks like the release game.  The phrasing of that message is confusing, but that’s likely what is going on here, though I’m not certain.  The image was in the folder with the rest of these, so I’m putting it here. (The email address is my usual one for the account, not something different.)

Yes, I’m in the desert now with my Ranger character, I’ve kept at it.  Running around in Guild Wars can be boring, but between the great graphics and music fortunately usually it’s pretty fun. It can be tense at times too if you’re trying to avoid enemies, but I don’t think I’m doing that here.

The desert area in GW is moderately sized and kind of empty, and is mostly made up of big open zones. It’s a fun area to explore, but isn’t as challenging as you might expect so it’s not that big a part of the game. I kind of like that though, because being able to wander around and explore without having to constantly fight is nice!

Some of the enemies pack a punch though, for sure, particularly in the desert’s Missions. It looks like I’m in a decent fight here.

There area few oasis areas in the desert filled with plants, such as this pond here. The plants are appropriately desert-themed, with cacti, palm trees, and such.

And now something different, the Fire Islands, or maybe more likely the random arena fire islands map.

Here is my world map, for Talindra almost certainly, circa late 2005. As you can see I have gone to some areas in the game, but there are still big parts of the overworld that I hadn’t explored. There are some sizable optional areas in this game, and I finally got around to going through a lot more of them in 2018, many years later — that is when I finally went along that long path connecting the North and South Shiverpeaks, went to the Falls, and such, for example.

Back to the ranger, my college guild definitely wasn’t a PvP guild, as that default Rating shows.

I wonder if any of these people have played the game in the past, oh, decade…

First person view of a bridge in the desert. The first person view is very impractical in combat, but can look kind of cool at times when you’re just running around.

And now I’m nearing the end of the bridge. Also, I know I’ve said this repeatedly, but having that U-key map open, the one on the left side of the screen, really is essential when exploring, it’s much easier to remember where you’ve been that way! Good maps are an important thing in games.

Going back to Talindra, here is one of those Sorrow’s Furnace attempts.  The lighting here makes the cape look different… that’s kind of cool.

Sorrow’s Furnace is a fairly good-sized dungeon, so getting a random public group to both stick together and actually stay long enough to finish it was difficult. Witness, three people have abandoned us already in this run, and this is not near the end… but given that the party is mostly dead and our death penalty is high, I don’t blame them; it’s probably better to just start over at this point.

Here’s the Iron Forgeman! He’s big, and the battle is tricky; you don’t just fight him, but have to stand on different points at the same time to be able to damage him.

Let’s go in again, maybe it’ll go better this time! At least the area looks pretty neat, with the reddish light and good texture work.

This area definitely does not look too hospitable to human life. And it looks like the party agrees… :p

But despite half of the team giving up, a few of us kept trying anyway, and talking about strategies for what to do in the chat.

It’s just incredibly difficult to beat this guy at 60% down with only four people, unfortunately… still, it’s great that I saved this chat with screenshots!

The strategy conversation continues. I really wish that I’d beaten the Iron Forgeman on one of these attempts, it’s still something I’d love to do in the game…

At some point after this one we finally gave up. Oh well… I’ll try again!

Long match? Just how long was this guy on the other team able to evade us for, exactly?  Also… it’s weird that I think I’ve never even made an account at The Guild Hall / Guild Wars Legacy, no idea why really.  That IGN Guild Wars forum shut down many years ago, after all.  I did join the GW1 general Discord recently, though.

… Well, if that chat is accurate that WAS a pretty crazy-long match… 51 minutes, seriously? And we stayed. Heh… I don’t know if that’s really worth it, but you don’t want to lose, you know? And we didn’t.

Still lots of people here grouping for Sorrow’s Furnace runs. Beating Sorrow’s Furnace was much more plausible in late ’05 than any time since, since finding player groups was so easy.  Oh, and on another note, those white boxes are players who haven’t loaded in correctly, or something like that.  It was a much less common bug than the textureless white ground, but as you can see happened once in a while.

And now, a handful of shots of the first Christmas event. I must have been busy during most of this event because I only have a couple of Christmas ’05 screenshots, but at least I have some! I’m liking this already, the giant presents are a nice touch. I love winter, and Christmas is a great holiday.

A giant candy cane! This is much nicer stuff than Halloween decorations…

Oh, yes, this is Lion’s Arch that somehow has seen a snowfall. That’s rare for a jungle city… but it happens every year anyway. Convenient!

Before the Battle Isles, again, the Team Arena was in the South Shiverpeaks, so grouping for it was done here. I don’t know if this party filled up though, because the next shot is of something else.

Yes, it’s the Iron Forgeman again. And a note full party and high death penalty again, too.  Sigh…

The Sorrow’s Furnace area really does look great, though. This game in general has really impressive art design, but this area upped things versus the original release in some ways.

The Forgeman’s design is great as well, even if it’s a bit too hard probably.

… Yup, this is going about as expected, we keep failing and respawning and eventually more and more people leave as they give up.  It was worth it though, even if not successful; Sorrow’s Furnace is a cool dungeon and I really liked exploring it with player groups.

And last for this batch, a few shots of standing in fire in the Fire Islands PvP map.

Yes, I’ve started to collect Elite Scar Pattern armor. I’d eventually get the full set, and it’s pretty much what I’ve been using ever since.

 

B. Guild Wars Factions Global Free-For-All PvP Weekend, Jan. 20-22 2006

The second part of this article includes 33 shots from the Guild Wars Factions Global Free-For-All PvP Weekend which, again, ran from January 20 to 22, 2006.  This beta weekend event was the first of two that preceded the release of Guild Wars Factions in 2006.   This PvP-only beta introduced the Battle Islands, a new PvP-focused map with several outposts, which would, once Factions released, replace the previously on-map random arena, team arena, Tombs, and such outposts.  Putting most of the PvP stuff in a single place was a good idea, so this was a welcome addition.  If you had PvP character slots on your account, you could, additionally, create characters using the two new classes Factions would introduce, Ritualist and Assassin.  If you didn’t, they had free keys available for making a new account that you would presumably use only for the betas.  In fact, those keys were available to anyone, not only current Guild Wars owners, as Factions would be a stand-alone title which does not require to original game to play.  So, Arena.net let anyone who wanted to use those keys to create an account.  I created a separate account that I used only for the betas, because my four character slots were full and this way was free while buying additional character slots costs $10 each.  This beta was PvP-only, so making a new account didn’t mean much, you only missed out on faction experience and such.  That’s fine.  This is why the shots from this beta of the character select screen for the Factions beta have only the beta characters are present, and not my regular ones.  I have checked, and this account does indeed exist.  It uses a now-dead email address, but fortunately I managed to correctly guess the password and thanks to screenshots know a character name, so I logged in, and yeah, it’s still there, with two characters but no games attached to the account.  That’s pretty cool, though it wouldn’t be usable unless I bought GW again for it, and i don’t really want to buy the game for an account attached to an email address I can’t access anymore, so oh well.  It still was pretty cool to see that it still existed.

In addition to the January test covered here, post-release beta accounts or characters would be accessible several more times, for the four Factions and Nightfall beta events in 2006. You had to use PvP-only or new characters for this beta, I believe, and I, like many people,,wanted to anyway in order to try the new classes.  As a result, I’ve got some new character creation shots showing the interface used for this beta, and some of the character list because these are kind of temporary characters and not ones I could use in the main game.  After Factions released I would use some of the Factions beta characters in the main game, by re-creating them in Factions’ new character slots, but not all of them.  Once Factions released, as with the base game, you couldn’t bring anything from beta into the main game other than your character names, so if this was a temporary second account I didn’t lose anything for it.

I mentioned this in short at the top of this article, but I did not have these Factions beta screenshots in a folder named with the name of the event and mostly use the official Wiki as a reference, so because it was not in the Wiki, while it was clear from looking at them that they were from a beta, I had a hard time figuring out what event, actually, they came from.  I knew about the second Factions beta, from March, but these did not seem to be from that PvE-focused event.  But since I hadn’t named the folder back then and it wasn’t in the official Wiki, unlike all betas before it, this one took a little more searching to find.  I eventually did find the name and details of this event, though: the PvP Factions beta weekend from January ’06 I’ve named above.  Here is the page for it on another Guild Wars Wiki which actually has info on the event:  https://guildwiki.gamepedia.com/Guild_Wars_Factions_Global_Free-for-All_PvP_Weekend  Arena.net or whoever oversees the official wiki really should correct this mistake and add a page for this beta somewhere, it did happen.  One other beta from later ’06, for Nightfall, similarly isn’t in the official Wiki sadly.

These are the Battle Isles, islands run by the Zaishen Order for the purposes of gathering together people who want to fight eachother together in one place. This is probably from a little cutscene introducing the Great Temple of Balthazar.

I made my first PvP character an Assassin, since that class sounded like the more interesting of the two. No, this isn’t my character, just the party.

Here’s my assassin, beta version. You could choose several different armor options in the character creator, and I chose this one.

And here we see the Factions beta character creator, as I decided to make a second character. Here’s the default look of the Ritualist. The new background is for Factions, as each of the four campaigns introduced a new login and character selection screen. Unfortunately the first three have been inaccessible for a very long time now, as the Eye of the North snowy mountain has been the games’ only selection screen background, and soundtrack, while the other three, such as this Factions one that was only in the game for about six months, languish semi-forgotten. It’s unfortunate, they should add in the option to use any of the four.

Now the model from behind.

And here’s the character creator itself, showing all the costume and skill options available here. Because these characters are created at max level, and are only usable in PvP, you can choose different armor options and set all your skill points as you choose. For the beta, if you made a new account with the beta key or made a new PvP character, a bunch of armors and such were unlocked for everyone; normally PvP characters can only use things unlocked on your account.

I believe this is from the tutorial stage a new PvP character has to go through.

Yeah, definitely. That’s Kisai there most likely.

That isn’t Aidan on the right though, but someone who looks somewhat like him, but factions style…

This is probably more shots of this AI character group than I needed. Oh well…

Now hopefully we’ll actually get to some PvP gameplay, with this new class!

The Battle Isles look great, and were a nice introduction to the East Asian-themed setting of Factions.

Oops, I think the ground broke again…

And here we see that yeah, this definitely is not my main account. I’d made two beta characters so far, one of each new class, but was mostly playing this one.

Here’s what I went with for a Ritualist. That’s kind of a cool outfit, but it’s never been a class I’ve played much of… I still don’t have one in my main account, in fact.

I did play some hours of Assassin, though. Here we finally see some actual gameplay, from a Random Arenas bout.

Playing Assassin is all about chained skills that build on eachother, and is the games’ second melee class, after the Warrior. I’ve played just enough Assassin to get the idea, but ultimately really do prefer ranged classes over melee.

Multiple costume options were available, so I switched to another one here. A fair number of people were playing this beta.  There were a LOT playing the new classes though for sure… but as you can see, not all.

Another scene from one of the outposts in the Battle Isles. Cantha and the Battle Isles, the setting of Factions, are a generic East Asian setting, made by a Western developer, so it’s a random mishmash of Chinese and Japanese elements, tossed in together into one place. What, China and Japan are different countries and actually aren’t the same? Who knew… I mean, I like Factions a lot as a campaign, but this IS a very legitimate criticism. The main game’s nations are similarly broad-themed though, so that’s maybe more just the style of the game than historical ignorance. I hope.

It was always weird, and kind of amusing, when the ground textures broke, but things on top of the ground like this starting point were still fine…

Posing for a shot in the Nolani-styled Ascalon PvP arena.  It’s an alright map, but has some rarely-used elements in it with that central thing you can control and the like… but teams usually just fight like normal.

This map’s better, I think… the Shiverpeaks map’s great.

And here’s my first shot of an area I have seen a lot of since, the Random Arenas. This is the multiplayer area in Guild Wars I’ve been in the most, since its introduction here.  The higher level multiplayer of the rest of the game is great, but it’s never been something I really wanted to get into myself.

Why not make a third character, just to see the new costume and skill options available here and such? First I need to choose an outfit… aeromancer?

Geomancer, maybe?

The costume I chose will be in one shot later, but now some first-person shots of NPCs. I wish I had more shots from actual PvP battles, but oh well, this will have to do… anyway, here’s a warrior.

And a monk.

That ranger guy.

And the mage, probably Kisai from Factions I’m guessing.

Near the end I took shots of my characters in the beta yet again.  I wish I’d also taken ones with their usernames, since I don’t have any shots of the names of two of these three characters, but this is better than nothing.  As I said this account still exists, but I deleted all three of these characters in the later betas and don’t have any of them anymore.  One Factions (Assassin) and one Nightfall character are in that account, but they aren’t these. Here’s my first Factions beta Elementalist. Yeah, I went with Pyromancer of course.

And the Assassin, in the costume I used the most. This is the character seen in the screenshots through most of this beta, so I do know this name, though the character is gone because I would change to a new character with a different name later that is the one that still exists.

And last the Ritualist, still little-played. It’s a second healing-focused class, but with spirits you summon as the class’s major focus.  For some reason I didn’t keep this character either, even though the account currently has only two characters on it.

Playing in the Random Arena again, before the beta ends.

These last two shots are from after the end of the January Factions beta event, I believe. So, these two are the only screenshots I may have taken in February; otherwise this whole set is from November to January. Either that or they were taken late in the event but with my regular account, and not the beta one. It’s more likely the former, but either way, I’m in a Fissure of Woe attempt with a player group.  With a two frames per second framerate as of this shot and a player dropped, though, I doubt this run lasted too much longer…

Here we are gathering people together in the Temple of the Ages for another go, probably at the Fissure again.

 

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